Costa Constantinides, City Councilman and Chair of the Environmental Protection Committee, is holding a press conference this morning, December 9, to call for the elimination of oil in the city’s power generation system. Joined by and environmental justice groups and Councilmembers Van Bramer and Kallos, Constantinides is speaking at the Ravenwood Generating Station in Queens. The press conference follows a Nov. 28 oversight hearing at which City Council investigated the role of power plants’ pollution in public health. Most of the city’s energy production occurs in Astoria, Queens, the area Constantinides represents.
The city mostly uses natural gas, but during high energy demand periods, the New York Systems Operator switches to No. 6 oil, the dirtiest kind. During the winter, natural gas use is constrained for heating use, so the city must meet the additional demand by bringing in other sources. The city does have laws to phase out No. 6 oil use by 2020, and No. 4 oil (the second dirtiest) by 2030, but Constantinides feels his district cannot wait that long, citing oil use’s correlation with cardiovascular disease and respiratory illnesses, including asthma and bronchitis.
Opponents say that efforts to cut emissions should be focused elsewhere. Electricity accounts for 32.3% of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, and oil use only makes up a fraction of electricity production, so Constantinides opponents feel he is targeting his concern in the wrong area. Still, Constantinides is pushing for an accelerated reduction timeline, citing the fact that the city could meet winter’s additional energy demand with other sources, or at least No. 2 oil, the cleanest. Power companies failed to testify at Constantinides’s hearing last month, to which he expressed disappointment.