By Bill Parry
The City Council voted overwhelmingly to approve a bill that would require power plant operators to end the use of dirty fuel oils, which will decrease hazardous emissions and pollution.
The legislation, co-sponsored by City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), mandates that power plants phase out the use of No. 4 heating 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 chose 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.
No. 6 fuel oil is from the bottom of the crude oil barrel and is the most polluting of the three grades burned in New York City. No. 4 is a heavy oil that is slighly less damaging to the environment. No. 2 is the cleanest of the three fuel oils but the most expensive.
“For decades, power plants have been notorious for emitting dangerous pollutants that risk our environment and public health,” Constantinides said. “This pollution has contributed to increased respiratory illnesses, higher asthma rates, emergency room visits, and other public health issues. Ending the use of dirty fuel oils will reduce these emissions and bring benefits to our public health, including reduced risk of asthma and hospital visits.”
Constantinides, who is head of the City Council’s Environmental Protection Committee, noted that 50 percent of the city’s power comes from generation plants in Astoria and Long Island City, known as “Asthma Alley” for pollutants caused by the plants as well as air traffic into and out of LaGuardia Airport.
Legislation authored by City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) to keep parks clean and safe after the application of pesticides was also passed. The bill requires the city’s Park Department to clean playground equipment within 24 hours after the spraying of pesticides by any city agency.
“Cleaning our city’s playgrounds after the application of pesticides is common-sense policy that will protect public health and quality of life for children and families throughout New York City,” Van Bramer said. “I fought for this legislation after several constituents came to me complaining about sludge left over from pesticide spraying at multiple playgrounds in my district. By passing this bill, we are ensuring that the health of our children and families come first, and our parks will be a safe and healthy public space for all.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr