Dec. 18. 2017 By Christian Murray
City officials and environmentalists held a press conference in front of an Astoria power plant this morning, a day before the City Council is scheduled to vote on a bill that would require power plant operators to phase out the use of highly-toxic oils faster than currently mandated.
The City Council passed legislation two years ago requiring power plant operators to stop using No. 6 fuel oil by 2020 and No. 4 fuel oil by 2030. The two fuel oils are deemed to be among the most hazardous oils and are linked to a variety of illnesses.
This bill, co-sponsored by Council Members Costa Constantinides and Ritchie Torres, would give power plant operators two choices to phase out the toxic oils.
The first would be to stop using No. 6 oil by 2020—as required—as well cease the use of No. 4 oil by 2025, five years earlier than currently mandated. The alternative would be to permit the use of No. 6 oil until 2022 but require that the use of No. 4 oil cease by 2022 as well.
Constantinides, who is the head of the City Council’s Environmental Protection Committee, has been a strong proponent of combating dirty fuel oils since he took office four years ago. He noted that 50 percent of the city’s power comes from plants in Astoria and Long Island city, with some of the facilities burning toxic oil.
“For decades, power plants have been notorious for emitting dangerous pollutants that risk our environment and public health,” Constantinides said, who organized a press conference in front of Eastern Power on Shore Boulevard this morning. “This pollution has contributed to increased respiratory illness, higher asthma rates, emergency-room visits and other public health issues.”
The officials at the press conference also noted that power plant emissions are concentrated in neighborhoods near public housing and low-income communities. They argued that this was not fair.
Marica Bystryn, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters, said “Accelerating the phase out of dirty No. 6 and No. 4 heating oil has enormous benefits…and saves lives by reducing the amount of particulate matter released into air.”
The bill is expected to pass.