Last Monday, New York City Council heard testimony from our New York City Program Manager, Adriana Espinoza, on a bill to accelerate the phasing out of the dirtiest heating oil currently legal to burn in New York, No. 4 heating oil. Though No. 4 oil is currently set to be completely phased out in 2030, Intro 1165 would push the ban forward to 2025. Currently, No. 4 heating oil is burned in thousands of buildings and a few power plants around the city, though most buildings have already switched to No. 2, a cleaner option.
The emissions released from burning No. 4 oil- particulate matter, Nitrous Oxides, and Sulfur Dioxide- are all correlated with increased rates of respiratory illnesses like bronchitis and asthma, cardiovascular disease, and death. Nickel, Sulfur, and other impurities in the oil do not burn completely, meaning they are expelled into the air during No. 4 oil combustion. Since No. 4 oil is disproportionately burned in areas of lower socioeconomic status, No. 4 oil combustion is also an environmental injustice issue.
Six percent of deaths in NYC are related to air pollution. Each year, air pollution causes thousands of hospital admissions and emergency room visits, especially of children, who are particularly susceptible to respiratory complications. No. 2 heating oil is a cleaner option: According to the Environmental Defense Fund, replacing No. 4 with No. 2 cuts particulate matter emissions by 90%, Nitrous Oxide emissions by 10%, and Sulfur Dioxide emissions by 68%. Additionally, the bill would cut buildings’ greenhouse gas emissions; buildings currently account for over half of all NYC greenhouse gas emissions.
City Council has not yet voted on this legislation. The mayor office has not taken a stance on the bill, and some stakeholders oppose the bill. Con Edison is prepared to meet the demands of the bill, if passed, but claims it will have to pass the costs onto its customers. Eastern Generation LLC, a power company with several plants in NYC, opposes the bill, as it would have to bear costs itself. That being said, most buildings in the city have already switched to No. 2 and experienced reduced maintenance costs by burning the cleaner oil. At this point, we are pushing the bill to be voted out of committee to face a full vote in Council. If passed, the five year phase-out acceleration would spare hundreds of deaths and thousands of emergency room visits.