Industry, Labor, Environmental Groups Applaud State Legislature Approval Of Bill To Mandate Use Of Low-Sulfur Heating Fuel To Clean Air

Broad Benefits Will Result From Bringing Standards For Heating Oil In Line With Federal Rules For Diesel Fuels Used In Trucks, Buses And Other Engines

(June 23, 2010)

Health, environmental and labor advocates today applauded the State Legislature for approving a bill mandating that the most commonly used heating oil for residences and businesses (#2 Grade) meet the same standards applied to diesel fuel used in road vehicles. The leaders said enacting the legislation (A.8642-A/S.1145-C) will improve the air New Yorkers breathe and cut down on the effects of acid rain even as it saves consumers money by permitting building owners to shift to the more efficiently-burning, higher grade, low-sulfur fuel.

"Our State of the Air report revealed that more than 12 million New Yorkers across the state live in counties with failing air quality," said Scott T. Santarella, President and CEO of the American Lung Association in New York.  "By requiring ultra low sulfur home heating oil, we will improve our air quality and give New Yorkers cleaner, healthier air that doesn't make them sick.  We applaud the Assembly and Senate for passing this bill and urge the Governor to quickly sign it into law."

 "This is another major step toward the PlaNYC goal of ensuring New Yorkers enjoy the cleanest air of any big city in the country," said Michael O'Loughlin, Director of the Campaign for New York's Future.  "The pollution reductions statewide will be the equivalent of shutting down two and a half dirty coal-burning power plants."

"The New York Oil Heating Association has fought hard to establish ultra low sulfur heating oil as the new standard in New York State.  Now due to the brave actions of our State Legislature, New York will lead the nation in clean heating oil policy," said John Maniscalco, CEO of the New York Oil Heating Association. "We are highly confident that ultra low sulfur heating oil will remain affordable and widely available while providing our valued customers with a superior, cleaner and more environmentally friendly fuel. We commend Assemblyman Robert Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, State Senator Bill Perkins and Senate Majority Leader John Sampson for their leadership and urge the Governor to sign this landmark legislation into law as soon as possible."

"This is great news for anybody who breathes New York air during heating season," said Rich Kassel, Senior Attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council.  "The plume of black smoke that now comes from many of New York's buildings is on its way to becoming a thing of the past." 

"This bill is a life-saver," said Isabelle Silverman, an Environmental Defense Fund attorney, who co-authored EDF's December report: Bottom of the Barrel: How the Dirtiest Heating Oil Pollutes Our Air and Harms Our Health. "Reducing soot pollution is especially important in New York City, where asthma hospitalization rates among children are twice the national average. However, phasing out the dirtiest grades of heating oil—#4 and #6 oil—also is crucial to dramatically reduce soot and nickel pollution because heating oil is responsible for more soot pollution in New York city than cars and trucks combined."

"Today's action is truly a breath of fresh air," said Marcia Bystryn, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters. "The phase-out of high-sulfur heating oil will help clear the air and help New Yorkers who have respiratory trouble breathe easier. This change will also help our environment by reducing acid rain. We applaud the State Senate and Assembly for approving this measure and we encourage Governor Paterson to sign this bill into law without delay."

"NYC's environmental justice communities are breathing a sigh of relief today, as the City's air promises to be a little cleaner in the years ahead, thanks to the passage of this long overdue bill," said Eddie Bautista, Executive Director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance.

"Dirty home heating oil is a major source of air pollution. Cleaning it up will improve air quality for the millions of New Yorkers who suffer from asthma and other respiratory illnesses," said Ross Gould, Air & Energy Program Director for Environmental Advocates of New York. "We commend the New York State Legislature for taking the necessary steps to clean up New York's air."

The groups that urged approval of the measure include the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association in New York, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, the New York League of Conservation Voters, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, Teamsters Joint Council 16, the New York Oil Heating Association and the Oil Heat Institute of Long Island.

 While the federal government already has imposed refining standards to lower the sulfur content of diesel fuel used in on-road vehicles, the same standards have not been applied to fuel used for heating homes and businesses because heating oil is not used across the nation.

Heating oil is essentially the same as diesel fuel, but the sulfur content historically permitted in heating oil in New York State is up to 15,000 parts per million, or about 1,000 times the 15ppm fuel used in the road fleet.  Requiring a shift to the cleaner standard will also dramatically reduce the amount of nitrogen oxides – key ingredients in the formation of smog – by as much as 30 percent.

Similarly, reducing sulfur content in heating fuel will greatly reduce the emissions into the atmosphere of sulfur dioxide, which shows up as particulate matter in the air causing regional haze and contributing to the formation of acid rain.

Mandating the low-sulfur fuel will also enable owners of large buildings to shift to high-efficiency boilers which require the cleaner-burning fuel, resulting in lower overall fuel usage as well as cleaner air.