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Helping NYC Reach a Clean Air Milestone

July 1, 2015

New York City reached an environmental milestone today as the final deadline passed in a multi-year effort to eliminate the city’s dirtiest residential heating oils. Policy Integrity played a major role in shaping and supporting the NYC Clean Heat program, which has saved hundreds of lives by curbing air pollution.

As of 2008, nearly 10,000 buildings used boilers that burned No. 4 or No. 6 oil—dirty fuels that emit high levels of sulfur, nickel, and other noxious pollutants. We studied this problem and released a report that quantified the health and economic benefits at stake: the policy could save a minimum of 73 to 188 mortalities each year and generate more than $5 billion in health benefits for city residents.

Studies like this often take years to complete, but Policy Integrity conducted this analysis quickly enough to affect the policy debate, while participating in stakeholder meetings and testifying at hearings on the issue. When an alternative version of the law with lower compliance costs was proposed, we updated our research and found that the new law would still generate most of the benefits. Our study helped convince other groups to support this version of the law, and our legal director, Jason Schwartz, was asked to speak at the ceremony when the bill was signed. The Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection later said of our efforts, “the Institute for Policy Integrity really helped push the ball over the line.” The law has since been cited as one of New York City’s greatest environmental success stories.

As of today’s deadline, roughly 95 percent of the affected buildings were in compliance, with approximately 250 buildings still needing to be converted.

Filed under Climate Change and Energy Policy, Environmental Health, News