2017-12-20 / Features

Council To Vote On Cleaner Power Generation Bill


Council Member Costa Constantinides discussed the bill he and Council Member Ritchie Torres introduced calling for cleaner power generation by requiring that power plant operators end the use of dirty fuel oils, which will decrease hazardous emissions and pollution from power plants. Council Member Costa Constantinides discussed the bill he and Council Member Ritchie Torres introduced calling for cleaner power generation by requiring that power plant operators end the use of dirty fuel oils, which will decrease hazardous emissions and pollution from power plants. Council Members Costa Constantinides and Ritchie Torres celebrated the fact that their bill INT. 1465 was to come up for a vote by the City Council. The bill calls for cleaner power generation by requiring that power plant operators end the use of dirty fuel oils, which will decrease hazardous emissions and pollution from power plants. The Council voted on the legislation at the December 19 Stated Meeting.

Constantinides and Torres were joined by environmental and community advocates, including the Asthma Coalition of Queens, New York League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, Urban Upbound, and Astoria Houses Tenants Association.

The bill mandates that power plants phase out use of no. 4 fuel oil earlier than the currently mandated deadline by following either of two options. If plant operators adhere to the currently mandated 2020 deadline of eliminating no. 6 fuel oil they must stop using no. 4 fuel oil by 2025, which is five years earlier than the currently mandated 2030 deadline. Plant operators can also choose to keep using no. 6 fuel oil until 2022, however they must also stop using no. 4 oil by that time and immediately transition to ultra-low sulfur no. 2 oil or another type of fuel.

Fuel oils no. 6 and no. 4 are the dirtiest oils available and are linked to air pollutants, including nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, methane, and particulate matter. These hazardous greenhouse emissions pose risks to public health, including higher rates of asthma. By contrast, ultra low sulfur no. 2 fuel oil contains half of the nitrogen oxide and a fraction of the sulfur dioxide of no. 4 oil.

When fully implemented, this policy will result in emissions reductions of up to 125,000 tons of carbon dioxide, 3,600 tons of sulfur dioxide, 1,000 tons of particulate matter, and 3,500 tons of nitrogen oxides. Power generation will be cleaner and more environmentally safe. Better air quality will bring benefits to public health, including lowered risks of asthma and hospital visits.

Constantinides, Chair of the Council’s Environmental Protection Committee, said, “For decades, power plants have been notorious for emitting dangerous pollutants that risk our environment and public health. This pollution has contributed to increased respiratory illness, higher asthma rates, emergency room visits, and other public health issues. Ending use of dirty fuel oils will reduce these emissions and bring benefits to our public health. Thank you to Council Member Ritchie Torres and our key stakeholders for their partnership on this important issue.”

“In an effort to further protect our environment and our city, this legislation will ensure that dirty oil will no longer be used by power plants when generating energy. It extends the elimination of no. 4 oil use that has detrimental effects on the environment and public health. I thank Councilman Constantinides for his partnership on this bill and look forward to it being signed into law,” said Council Member Torres.

Power plants produce emissions concentrated in the neighborhoods they’re located in, and many power plants in the city are located near public housing and low-income communities. Communities with power plants have worse air quality and higher rates of asthma and hospitalizations.

This issue has been a priority for Constantinides and Torres. Earlier this year, they started an online petition calling for public support of this legislation. Over 500 people have signed the petition so far. Last year, Constantinides held a committee over- sight hearing, where no power plant operators were present to testify. He later held a rally to call for ending use of dirty fuel oil in power plants. This issue is especially important to Constantinides because over half of the city’s power is generated in plants located in western Queens.

Environmental and community advocacy groups voiced their support of the legislation.

“New York City residents living in the shadow of our power plants have been forced to breathe the worst of air pollution, including ozone, particle pollution and a cocktail of other toxic emissions for far too long. We applaud Council Members Constantinides and Torres for their leadership to quicken the phase out of burning no. 4 and no. 6 dirty heating oil in power plants in New York City,” said Jeff Seyler, Executive Vice President, Northeast at the American Lung Association.

“Particle pollution and ozone are known environmental asthma triggers which can exacerbate asthma attacks. Any efforts to reduce these triggers will positively impact people with asthma. We applaud Councilman Constantinides for his tireless work as an advocate for clean air and for people who are disproportionately burdened with asthma,” said Claudia Guglielmo, MPA, AE-C, Director of Asthma Coalition of Queens – American Lung Association.

“As we work to expand the amount of renewable energy powering our city, we must also take more immediate steps to ensure that our in-city power plants are using the cleanest heating oils available,” said Marcia Bystryn, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “Accelerating the phase out of dirty no. 6 and no. 4 heating oil has enormous benefits such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions toward our 80x50 climate goal. It will also save lives by reducing the amount of particulate matter released into the air, preventing hospitalizations and premature deaths from respiratory illnesses. We thank Council Members Constantinides and Torres for their leadership on this legislation to create a greener, healthier city.”

“Burning dirty no. 4 oil in New York City power plants threatens the health of Queens residents, especially those already suffering from asthma and other chronic lung diseases. So bravo to Council Member Costa Constantinides for his leadership in advancing legislation that will require power plants to jettison at long last their reliance on this dirty fuel,” said Natural Resources Defense Council NYC Environment Director Eric A. Goldstein.

“Living and working in Harlem, I have witnessed how dirty fossil fuels are not only drivers of climate change, but contribute to some of the nation’s highest rates of asthma in neighborhoods like East Harlem and South Bronx. We are thankful to the City Council for acting on this bill to reduce the impact of dirty heating oil from power plants, and to Council Member Constantinides for leading the way to cleaner air and greenhouse gas reductions citywide,” said Peggy Shepard, Executive Director at WE ACT for Environmental Justice.

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