New York City may not be the place that comes to mind when you think of clean air, but NYC has done tremendous work in improving air quality – and now our neighbors in upstate Westchester County are following suit.
Seeing the positive health impacts from the phase-out of highly polluting heating oil in NYC, the Westchester County Legislature yesterday approved a resolution to phase out No. 6 and No. 4 oil in their buildings over time – No. 6 heating oil by 2018, and No. 4 oil by 2020.
These oils emit fine particular matter (PM2.5) and harmful chemicals like sulfur dioxide. When burned, they can become lodged in the lungs and worsen respiratory and cardiovascular issues. There were only a few hundred such buildings in Westchester county – compared to thousands in NYC – but that was still too many for Westchester officials to rest on their laurels. The county legislature went to work cleaning their air, and that work is paying off. Read More
Building on the momentum of Climate Week NYC and the Pope’s visit to New York last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced today the launch of an ambitious new program called the NYC Retrofit Accelerator.
Tasked with upgrading 20,000 (or 15 percent) of New York City’s private buildings – 40 percent of which will be low-income housing – the Retrofit Accelerator will provide resources for buildings owners and managers to improve their energy and water efficiency. Addressing energy use in buildings is key to meeting the city’s ambitious carbon reduction goals, as buildings account for roughly 75 percent of the city’s carbon emissions. It is estimated that the Retrofit Accelerator will result in cutting approximately 940,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent annually by 2025. The city has said this is the equivalent of taking 200,000 cars off the road.
If this program sounds familiar, that’s because de Blasio revealed Retrofit Accelerator at Climate Week NYC last year as part of the broader One City Built to Last plan. Today’s announcement marks the formal launch of this program, an exciting expansion of the successful NYC Clean Heat model, which resulted in New York’s cleanest air since the early 1960s. Read More
Source: Daniel Schwen, Wikimedia Commons
Recently, EDF and The Intersector Project teamed up to create a case study on the NYC Clean Heat program, a collaborative effort that included partners from private real estate interests, New York City, oil companies, and the Environmental Defense Fund. The program began in 2007 to improve the city’s air quality and the case study highlights the inter-workings of this cross-sector collaboration that has made NYC Clean Heat such a success.
The NYC Clean Heat project achieved success by transitioning over 3,300 buildings off of No. 6 and No. 4 oil (used to heat residential and commercial buildings in the winter), removing more than 300 tons of soot (PM2.5) from the air New Yorkers breathe. As a result, from 2011 to 2012, New York City was ranked number four for the cleanest air in the nation. Read More
Recently, New Yorkers bid farewell to our Mayor of twelve years, Mike Bloomberg. Under Bloomberg’s prevue, EDF helped catalyze the NYC Clean Heat program – which led to the cleanest air the City has seen in the last fifty years. Through NYC Clean Heat’s efforts over the past few years to phase out the use of highly-polluting No. 6 heating oil in more than 3,000 buildings across NYC, sulfur pollution fell by more than two-thirds while soot pollution dropped by a quarter.
NYC Clean Heat has made great strides in helping buildings become cleaner and more efficient, but there is still much work to be done. EDF is wasting no time in capitalizing on the effective public-private partnership we helped assemble of community and union leaders, policymakers and leaders in the utility, real estate and finance sectors to bring more environmental and public health gains to the City. Our next target: All that energy wasted by old and inefficient buildings.
Nearly 40% of U.S. energy is consumed by residential and commercial buildings, which are responsible for more than a third of our country’s greenhouse gases. The building sector presents one of the greatest untapped opportunities for major gains in energy savings and pollution reductions over the next several years. Read More
By now you might have heard the story. Andy Darrell and his fellow colleagues in EDF’s New York office were staring out the window of their office near Gramercy Park several years ago when they noticed thick plumes of black smoke rising from a nearby building. As New York regional director of the Environmental Defense Fund and a member of outgoing Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC Sustainability Advisory Board, it struck Andy that they could actually do something about it. Embarking on a plan that aimed to phase out the City’s dirtiest heating oils, the successful EDF-led NYC Clean Heat campaign was born.
This story officially entered New York City environmental lore when New York Magazine included it in the annual Reasons to Love New York issue as “Reason 19. Because Our Air Is the Cleanest It’s Been in 50 Years.” The recent article describes the public-private coalition of city officials, lawmakers, non-profits and private sector banks that came together for a $100 million financing program that would help building owners make the transition to cleaner fuels. The result: around 3,000 buildings have converted to cleaner fuels, which has been the primary driver in reducing sulfur-dioxide pollution by nearly 70 percent. Read More
NYC Clean Heat is halfway to achieving its goal of reducing harmful heating oil soot pollution in New York City by 50 percent by the end of 2013.
The NYC Clean Heat program experienced tremendous growth in 2012. The Mayoral announcement in June 2012 marked the official transition from the pilot phase to full implementation of the NYC Clean Heat program, which aims to clean the air in New York City by helping buildings convert from highly-polluting No. 6 and No. 4 heating oils to the cleanest available fuels. The heating oils used in one percent of New York City buildings create more soot pollution than all the cars and trucks in the City combined – that’s why upgrading these buildings to cleaner heating fuel is the single largest step New Yorkers can take to solve local air pollution.
The goal of NYC Clean Heat is to cut heating oil soot pollution in half by the end of 2013. NYC’s Department of Health estimates that achieving this goal will result in over 120 lives saved each year and prevent hundreds of emergency room visits and hospitalizations for respiratory and cardiovascular conditions.
I’ve been a part of the NYC Clean Heat team for almost two years now, and I can tell you that I am floored by the progress we’ve made. For instance:
- By the end of 2012, over 1,200 boilers – well beyond the number of conversions the regulations required – have switched to natural gas or ultra-low sulfur No. 2 (some of the cleanest available fuels), and over 2,000 additional boilers in line to convert.
- These 1,200 conversions have resulted in over 150 tons of reduction of soot pollution, or particulate matter (PM2.5), which is equivalent to removing over 800,000 light-duty passenger vehicles from the road for 1 year. That’s over 13 billion miles travelled!
- NYC Clean Heat won the 2013 Citizen Budget Commission’s Award for Public Service Innovation.
Why is all of this important? Approximately 1,500 buildings still need to complete conversions in 2013. Also, roughly 2,000 permits for No. 6 oil are set to expire before March 2014, representing 232 tons of soot pollution. Because this week is National Public Health Week, we are more aware than ever of what reducing air pollution in New York City will mean. NOW is the time to take action. Read More