City wants to phase out dirty heating oil

BY Aline Reynolds

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection proposed a law last week that would eliminate permits for numbers four and six heating oil, which release up to 15 times more soot than does number two heating oil or natural gas.  

Permits for number six oil, the largest pollutant, will be denied starting next year, and fully phased out by 2015; and number four oil, the second-largest pollutant, will be eliminated by 2030, according to the D.E.P.

“Whenever a building replaces their boiler or burner with a new make or model of a new boiler or burner, the building will also have to switch away from number six and four oils,” explained Isabelle Silverman, an attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund, a national nonprofit based in New York that worked closely with the D.E.P. to formulate the rule.

The proposal will undergo a 30-day public comment period, followed by a public hearing on February 28. The D.E.P. then has 30 days to make changes to the rule as it deems fit.

Barring lawsuits that could thwart its passage, the law will become effective on March 28.

“A conversion would be greatly appreciated by these older buildings,” said Community Board 1 Member Catherine McVay Hughes. The board, she said, has gone on the record approving financial incentives that would facilitate the switch from dirty heating oil to natural gas.

NYC buildings that burn numbers four and six oil release more soot pollution than all of the city’s buses, cars and trucks combined, according to the E.D.F. Manhattan has some of the poorest air quality in the city, according to the NYC Department of Health Community Air Survey.  

“This is a huge step to rid the city skyline of the plumes of black smoke that choke our children’s lungs,” said Andy Darrell, New York regional director of the E.D.F.’s national energy program. “By switching to cleaner fuels, New York City will prove that a mega-city can grow and clean the air at the same time.”  

Approximately 180 buildings south of Houston Street burn the dirtiest grades of heating oil, according to an E.D.F. study.

Liberty Terrance, the 25-story condominium at 380 Rector Place in Battery Park City, is one of a few Downtown buildings that plan to convert to natural gas before the end of the year.

“We believe that this is good for the community, and are able to justify this change with the savings that will be realized with a very reasonable payback period,” said Liberty Terrace resident and C.B. 1 Member Anthony Notaro.