New York Phasing Out Dirtiest Heating Oils

Smokestacks spewing thick soot into the clouds could soon fade away in New York City.

As The New York Times reports, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration announced a rule phasing out two of the dirtiest heating oils still used in 10,000 buildings in the city. Under the rule, by 2015 building owners in the city firing their boilers with the dirtiest fuel are to switch to a cleaner alternative, and the full phaseout of the most-polluting oils is to be completed by 2030.

While the oils that are the target of the new rule are used in only 1 percent of the city’s buildings, they are responsible for 86 percent of the soot pollution from buildings.

Bloomberg called the decision “the single biggest step that we’ve taken to save lives,” with the exception of the city’s anti-smoking legislation.

Dovetailing with the announcement was a new report from the city’s health department that found that the dirty oils, along with other sources of air pollution, are responsible for 3,000 deaths annually in New York. The air pollution also was found to cause 2,000 hospital visits for heart and lung conditions, as well as 6,000 emergency room trips related to asthma.

With the full phaseout of the dirtiest heating oils, the overall concentration of fine particles in the city’s air from all sources is expected to be reduced by 5 percent.

In many cases the cost of converting old building boilers away from oil No. 6, the dirtiest fuel, is expected to be $10,000 or less. Costs could be far higher, though, to switch newer boilers to the cleanest fuels. The city said that it would grant extensions to building owners facing financial hardship.

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