City Council Member Costa Constantinides(at podium), Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer (r.), and state Senator Michael Gianaris (l.) on December 9th called for an end to the use of numbers 6 and 4 fuel oil in power plants. They were joined by the Astoria Houses Tenants Association, Queensbridge Houses Tenants Association, Ravenswood Houses Tenants Association, Jacob Riis Senior Center, Urban Upbound, American Lung Association, Asthma Coalition of Queens, and WeACT.City Council Member Costa Constantinides, Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, and state Senator Michael Gianaris on December 9th called for an end to the use of numbers 6 and 4 fuel oil in power plants. They were joined by the Astoria Houses Tenants Association, Queensbridge Houses Tenants Association, Ravenswood Houses Tenants Association, Jacob Riis Senior Center, Urban Upbound, American Lung Association, Asthma Coalition of Queens, and WeACT.
Ending the use of Number 6 and 4 oils would help reduce emissions produced by the plants in order to meet goals set by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. They called on the power plant operators to demonstrate how they plan to comply with Local Law 38 of 2015, which requires that they phase out use of number 6 oil in plants citywide by 2020. They also called on the plant operators to phase out use of number 4 oil sooner than the scheduled 2030 phase-out. Numbers 6 and 4 oils are considered to be the dirtiest grades of oil available. They are linked to air pollutants that pose risk to public health, including particulate matter, nitrous oxides and sulfur dioxide.
Constantinides, who serves as Chair of the Council’s Environmental Protection Committee, has sponsored Res. 320, which calls on power plants throughout the entirety of New York State to phase out numbers 6 and 4 fuel oils. He said, “For decades, power plants in our communities here in western Queens have strongly contributed to increased asthma rates and increases in hospitalizations and ER visits that exceed the average in Queens. Our city has made great progress on ending the use of dirty fuel oil in buildings. Now more than ever, these plants must become better neighbors and stop the practice of burning numbers 6 and 4 oil while looking to repower these older facilities. Too many promises to our neighborhood have gone unfulfilled. Today we stand together to say our community deserves better and will not stand for the polluting status quo.”
“Astoria and Long Island City have one of the highest childhood asthma rates in New York City,” said Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer. “This is unacceptable. Our communities should not be known as ‘asthma alley.’ If these power plants reduce their emissions, we can make our communities stronger and more healthy.”
Today, 60% of the power plants in the city are more than 40 years old, and most use less-than-efficient designs. This especially affects Constantinides’ and Van Bramer’s Council Districts as over 50% of the city’s power comes from plants that are located in Astoria and Long Island City.
Constantinides held a committee oversight hearing on power plants on November 28th, where no power plant operators were present to testify. Predominantly state authorities have jurisdiction over power plants, whether located in the city or throughout the state, including the Public Service Commission, Independent System Operator, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Power plants produce carbon emissions that are concentrated in the neighborhoods in which they are located. “This poses an environmental justice issue,” Constantinides stat- ed in a release, “as many power plants are concentrated in proximity to public housing and low-income communities or communities of color, or both. Communities with power plants have worse air quality, and could be at greater risk of respiratory illness. There are higher rates of hospitalization for respiratory disease including asthma among communities near power plants.”
Although plant operators have only three years left to comply with the scheduled 2020 phase-out of number 6 oil, at least five plants cumulatively burned over 19 million gallons of that type of fuel last year. These plants are located in Astoria, Long Island City, and the Upper East Side.
“Combating climate change and improving air quality are now more pressing concerns than ever. Reducing carbon emissions and other pollutants will increase the health and wellness of our seniors, children and other local residents and preserve our environment for generations to come,” said Senator Gianaris.
“Numbers 4 and 6 are the dirtiest and heaviest types of heating oils, contributing to air pollution, respiratory illness, and even premature death,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “With cleaner options available, no power plant located in densely populated residential areas should be putting residents at risk by burning these types of oils. Any power plant doing so should present an immediate plan for moving to cleaner oil.”
“For too many years, these power plants have been in our area and we really don’t know what chemicals are escaping from them. One thing is for sure, our residents are experiencing failing health issues, often caused by emissions from the power plants. In this particular area, there are several power plants. We don’t want to wait until a news report comes out 10 years from now with even worse details about the effects of living around them,” said Queensbridge Houses Tenants Association President April Simpson, Astoria Houses Tenants Association President Claudia Koger, Ravenswood Houses Tenants Association President Carol Wilkins.
“For far too long communities surrounding our power plants have breathed the worst of air pollution, including ozone, particle pollution and a cocktail of other toxic emissions. We support efforts led by Councilman Constantinides to phase out the use of numbers 4 and 6 heating oil in all sources, including power plants in New York City,” said Mike Seilback, Vice President of Public Policy & Communications at the American Lung Association.
“Outdoor air pollution and other particulate matter can trigger an asthma attack. In much of Western Queens, asthma-related hospitalizations and emergency department visits exceed the New York State and Queens county rates. We support Councilman Constantinides in his efforts to reduce emissions in these communities,” said Claudia Guglielmo, Director of the Asthma Coalition of Queens.