Why Should NYC Leave #6 Oil Behind?

Human Impacts Institute attended theFourth Annual Patty Noonan Memorial Policy Forum at the CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities. This event organized byGreenHomeNYC on June 20, provided panel discussions from International Finance Corporation (IFC) representative Ken Camilleri, Boiler Division of New York City Department of Buildings representative Robert Daly, and Controlled Combustion(CC) representative Michael Bendjouya. The meeting provided clarity regarding the regulations of #6 oil, what it means to buildings, and how much the conversion costs and saves.

NYC is one of the last bastions of #6 residual oil use. According to this Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) map of dirty heating oil, 8919 buildings, many of the city’s most crowded and wealthiest neighborhoods, are still burning #6 or #4 oil today. This 1% of buildings burning the dirtiest heating oil produce 85% of soot pollution in the City, which is more than all cars, trucks and buses on the streets combined. The small particulate emissions produced by the burning, can create toxic rain or be readily breathed by us, which aggravates people’s health problems from asthma, lung cancer to other diseases that lead to premature death.

After many years of fighting, in 2011 NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), issued a new rule to phase out #6 oil between 2012 and 2015, and #4 oil by the end of 2030. The City will begin to deny any applications for #6 oil usage from July 2012. This huge step will switch New York City to a mega-city that can grow and can protect its residents.

This rule means that, by the end of 2015, every building in NYC will need to convert to either:

· #4 heating oil, which is its still dirty but the conversion is easy and could save at least 80 lives of New Yorkers annually;

· Much cleaner #2 heating oil and #2 oil w/biodiesel;

· Or natural gas, which is the cleanest alternative, but not every building in NYC can get it with different conditions of buildings.

This rule is both a win for our wallet and the economy. Over this time span, near-total #6 will be phased out. Conversion from #6 to #2 or #4 will cost approximately $7,000 to $12,000, and $12,000 to $25,000 to natural gas. The average pay back time will be 2 to 5 years, though it varies with different buildings. While compliance of phase one has a lower cost, many buildings can be saved significantly by switching to the cleanest wide-available fuel on long-term outlooks.

In the near future we should be able to enjoy improved air quality, improved efficiency measures and reduced natural gas prices.

By Celia Cui, 2012 Human Impacts Institute Environmental Services Intern

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