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No. 4 Oil Is the Latest Fossil Fuel to Get Banned in New York City

New York City

No. 4 fuel oil, city ban, city council, Local Law 97, carbon emissions, co-op and condo boards.
Feb. 21, 2023

Fossil fuels continue their incredible disappearing act in New York City. The city council has passed a bill — which Mayor Eric Adams is expected to sign into law — that will speed up the ban on burning No. 4 fuel oil in buildings, including co-ops and condos.

Introduction 470-A, sponsored by Council Member James Gennaro (D-Queens), would accelerate the timeline for prohibiting the use of oil grade no. 4 in boilers across the city. No. 4 fuel oil, the most polluting fuel oil still being used in the city, would be banned for use in city-owned buildings after July 1, 2025, and for all other boilers after July 1, 2027. City officials would be prohibited from issuing or renewing building permits for the fuel as of June 30, 2024. The city had originally planned to ban the fuel by 2030.

"Annually, No. 4 heating oil adds about 120,000 pounds of lung-damaging fine particulate matter into the air," Gennaro said at a city council meeting on Feb. 16. "It also contains 100 times more sulfur than fuel No. 2, and sulfur oxides are among the most dangerous pollutants. Removing these harmful emissions will prevent deaths, lifelong respiratory illnesses, and emergency room visits for asthma attacks every year. Fuel No. 4 also contributes a whopping 9,200 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. That is the equivalent of an additional 2,000 cars on the roads."

Lower-income communities that are disproportionately burdened by environmental hazards would benefit from the legislation, with more than half of the 3,366 buildings that use fuel oil No. 4 in such neighborhoods, particularly in parts of the Bronx and uptown Manhattan.

In a committee vote before the bill went to the full council, lawmakers supported the bill 7-to-1. The lone dissenter was Ari Kagan (R-Brooklyn), who pushed back over financing concerns for the city’s property owners. "This is the story of Local Law 97," Kagan told Crain's, referring to the looming fines for buildings that fail to reduce their carbon emissions under prescribed caps, beginning in 2024. "This is the same story here — it’s an unfunded mandate. The goals are good, but the implementation is bad so I’m voting no.”

Depending on a building's equipment, a fuel oil switch may require a boiler upgrade. Recognizing that purchasing new heating equipment may be onerous for certain building owners, the bill includes a hardship clause that would allow property owners to apply to the Department of Buildings for a temporary extension to comply with the law.

The city completely phased out No. 6 fuel oil between 2011 and 2015, which removed approximately 6,000 of the dirtiest boilers from the city and helped bring the city’s air quality to the best it has been in more than 50 years. 

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