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Proposal To Rid City Of Dirty Heating Oil Sparks Debate

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TWC News: Proposal To Rid City Of Dirty Heating Oil Sparks Debate
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Mayor Bloomberg is proposing big changes to the city's heating oil regulations -- a move he says will improve air quality for all New Yorkers. And while environmental groups are hailing the effort, the real estate industry is not. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.

City officials say they want the image of a plume of black smoke pouring from a building, polluting the air we breath, relegated to the history books.

"We would love to see the end of the black smoke. And that is one of the great motivations for this," said Carter Strickland of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.

What Strickland is referring to is a new set of rules proposed Friday by the Bloomberg administration to regulate home heating oil. The city would ban the dirtiest type of oil by 2015. By 2030, all buildings would have to use a home heating oil with even less sulfur or use natural gas. Burning oil with higher levels of sulfur and other pollutants causes the black smoke.

"This is a huge deal for clean air in New York City, for anyone who lives, works, breathes here in the city," said Andrew Darrell of the Environmental Defense Fund.

But changing the regulations won't come cheap. The city estimates it will cost building owners about $10,000 to convert their boiler so it's able to burn the new low-sulfur heating oil. The Real Estate industry says the costs could run much higher than that.

In a statement, the Real Estate Board of New York says that while they support the city's health goals of clean air, the new rules could be "seriously damaging to New Yorkers in this economic climate."

For environmentalists like Darrell, there's no question it's worth it. He says getting rid of heating oil with high levels of sulfur, which he refers to as Bunker Fuel, will improve the health of New Yorkers.

"There's a price being paid every day that bunker fuel is being burned in New York City. And that price is the child who misses school because of an asthma attack, it's the person with lung cancer, it's the hundreds of people who die early every year because of disease from air pollution," said Darrell.

A public hearing on the proposed changes will be held on February 28 in Flushing, Queens.

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