ASTORIA – New York City Council Members Costa Constantinides and Ritchie Torres celebrated the upcoming vote of their bill INT. 1465 by the City Council on December 18 in Astoria. 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 is scheduled to vote on the legislation at the December 19th Stated Meeting.
Constantinides was joined by environmental and community advocates including the Asthma Coalition of Queens’ Director Claudia Guglielmo, New York League of Conservation Voters NYC program director Adriana Espinoza, Natural Resources Defense Council NYC Environment Director Eric A. Goldstein, Urban Upbound founder and CEO Bishop Mitchell G. Taylor, and Astoria Houses Tenants Association president Claudia Coger.
The bill mandates that power plants phase out use of #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 #6 fuel oil they must stop using #4 fuel oil by 2025, which is five years earlier than the currently mandated 2030 deadline. Plant operators can also chose to keep using #6 fuel oil until 2022, however they must also stop using #4 oil by that time and immediately transition to ultra-low sulfur #2 oil or another type of fuel.
Fuel oils #6 and #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 risk to public health including higher rates of asthma. By contrast, ultra-low sulfur #2 fuel oil, contains half of the nitrogen oxide and a fraction of the sulfur dioxide of #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, more environmentally safe, and less polluting. Better air quality will bring benefits to public health including reduce risk 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.”
New York City Council Member Costa Constantinides at the press conference on bill INT. 1465 in Astoria. Photo by Eleni Sakellis
“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 Councilman Torres, who could not attend the news conference.
Power plants produce emissions concentrated in 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 public support of this legislation. Over 500 people have signed the petition so far. Last year, Constantinides held a committee oversight 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.
“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 Asthma Coalition of Queens – American Lung Association.
“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 Councilmember 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.
For more information, visit council.nyc.gov/costa.