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By Sadef Ali Kully

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed seven different pieces of legislation into law last week, including a law updating New York City’s air pollution control code that was sponsored by Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton).

Richards, also the chairman of the Environmental Protection Committee, pushed forth Intro 271-A, which codifies revisions to the original Air Code, updating the law first introduced in 1975. Co-authored by Richards, the legislation would “introduce new requirements to limit emissions from certain unregulated sectors, while promoting the adoption of cost-effective air pollution controls.”

Intro 271-A, the new air pollution control code, targets commercial char broilers, outdoor boilers, mobile food trucks and fireplaces, which will be required “to use only natural gas or renewable fuels in order to reduce the amount of pollutants.”

“This bill will help us to improve air quality by bringing the code into the 21st century with a series of important changes, including regulating additional sources of emissions like motorcycles, boilers, and generators,” de Blasio said. “Our goal for New York City – we said it in our OneNYC plan – is to have the best quality air of any major city in this nation by 2030. We’re very proud of that commitment, and we intend to keep it, and enforcing a stronger air code will help us to get there.”

According to city data, stricter regulation of commercial and residential buildings burning No. 6 and No. 4 heating oil, as well as the NYC Clean Heat Program, has resulted in a 69 percent reduction in pollution from sulfur dioxide, a colorless pungent toxic gas formed by burning sulfur in air, since 2008. In addition, particulate matter – a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets made up of a number of components, including acids, organic chemicals, metals, and soil or dust particles – is down 23 percent since 2007.

The revisions of the code over the last 43 years have been limited primarily to the reduction of particulate matter from large sources, including residential and commercial fuel combustion, as well as non-road and on-road diesel emissions. For example, in 2011, more than 5,200 buildings burned No. 6 heating oil, the dirtiest grade of fuel oil. According to city data, more than 3,000 buildings have made the conversion and no longer burn No. 6.

Neighborhoods with the highest density of emissions reductions from boiler conversions – such as northern Manhattan, northern Queens, and the South Bronx – have seen some improvements in air quality.

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