2nd Clean Heat Council Meeting

On June 25, 2013 fifteen members of the West Harlem Clean Heat Council met at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health to discuss the progress of the Clean Heat Campaign and provide recommendations for improving outreach strategies. Milka Rodriguez, Green Building Organizer, reported back to the council members on the progress of outreach to community boards, buildings that are still burning No. 6 oil and other efforts being made to eradicate the use of No. 6 oil as mandated by Local Law 43. Local Law 43 states that all buildings burning No. 6 heating oil will be required to switch to a cleaner fuel alternative by 2015 or when the boiler permit ends. The various cleaner fuel alternatives available are natural gas, No. 2 heating oil, and steam.

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The council members included Columbia University researchers, representatives from local elected officials’ office’s, Peggy Sheppard, Mike Gregoretti, John Maniscalco, Tenants & Neighbors, and others. The members discussed proposing an amendment to the law that would require shortening the time span for No. 4 oil from 2030 to 2020. No. 4 oil is in fact, only slightly better than number six in terms of emissions. The council members agreed that there was a need for a “timely conversion” from No. 6 to No. 4 oil to abide by Local Law 43. This suggests that having a shorter time span for the conversion from No. 6 to No. 4 oil will expedite the conversion process from No.4 oil to No. 2 oil, or Natural Gas, or Steam.

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On the contrary, other council members viewed the situation from a very different standpoint. John Maniscalco, CEO of the New York Oil Heating Association feels that the continual use of No. 4 oil is necessary for a number of years after No. 6 oil is outlawed. John Maniscalco stated, “to accelerate the phase out of No. 4 oil? I am totally against it because when we put the legislation together with the mayor’s office the agreement was that No. 6 oil would be phased out in 2015 and No. 4 oil in 2030, as long as there wasn’t a drastic change in the equipment that is what the industry agreed to.  If we changed that now it would be improper.”

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Dr. Diana Hernández, Assistant Professor at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, conducted a brief presentation entitled “Power for the Poor: Examining Energy Insecurity as a Hidden Dimension of Disease and Disadvantage.” She explained that, Energy Insecurity (EI) is a concept that describes the inability for some (mostly low-income) householders to meet basic household energy needs. According to available estimates, approximately sixteen million households are affected by energy insecurity in the US. EI encompasses three factors: physical (poor heating systems, self-repair), economic (debt, financial hardship), and coping  (trade-offs in household expenses or partial payments of utility bills). Dr. Hernández presented a conceptual model entitled the “Energy Insecurity a Pathway to Asthma” which outlined the mediating function of EI that trickles down from neighborhoods marked by segregation and poor outdoor air quality to deficient housing structures where EI becomes a problem that affects health and socioeconomic well well-being.

In addition to the conceptual model, Dr. Hernández presented the study design for a project  currently underway with WE ACT. The pilot project was recently funded by the NIEHS Center for Environmental Health in Northern Manhattan. The study will measure indoor and outdoor air quality in 10 buildings undergoing boiler conversions in Northern Manhattan. Data collection will begin in November 2013 and continue through the heating season. For more information, on Dr. Diana Hernández’s research on energy insecurity click here.

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Mike Gregoretti, a fuel conservation specialist from Mike Gregoretti & Sons Inc. an oil conservation company, was the second presenter. Mr. Gregoretti performed an original rap song that explained how fuel conversion and energy conservation helps property owners save money on their buildings energy bills. He also discussed the importance of residential energy audits. These audits can help assess problems within the boiler system that produce heat loss as well as improve the performance of larger more complex residential buildings. The presentation focused on the economics of fuel conversion as a major capital improvement (MCI). A major capital improvement is defined by the addition of a permanent structural improvement or the restoration of some aspect of a property that will either enhance the property’s overall value or increase its useful life.

Mr. Gregoretti presented a 5 year fuel conversion and conservation plan which demonstrates how incorporating energy conservation and fuel conversion efforts in a building can result in considerable environmental and economic benefits. Property owners/managers will begin to see a return on investment within Year 5 and reap maximum benefits. For more information on Mike Gregoretti’s Combining Conservation with Conversion plan, please call 1(877) 4- LESSOIL.

The energy conservation and fuel conversion plan includes high costs to initiate conversion efforts. The NYC Clean Heat initiative is based out the of the mayor’s office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability and has various financing mechanisms in place to assist buildings with the conversion. It is the city’s initiative to improve air quality and save lives by eliminating heavy oil use and accelerating the adoption of the cleanest fuels.

Questions arose during the discussion such as: Will the plan actually work? Will people lose more money before they invest in this plan? Is there any financial gain? The plan has potential to be successful, but cost factors are a key component of the plan. People would invest a lot of money upfront, but eventually they will start seeing the savings once the system is being used frequently. The financial gain will not be seen until the system has been in place for at least a couple of years, then the savings will start to show.

The 2nd Clean Heat Council meeting was overall very productive. The decision to the proposed amendment of a “timely conversion” or accelerate the phase out of No.4 oil was not agreed upon by all council members. Further discussion as well as support for the amendment will be needed for it to be considered at the next council meeting. Mr. Gregoretti and his rap were the highlight of the meeting and added a bit of comedy to the energy conservation and conversion plan. Milka Rodriguez will follow up with elected officials offices, community boards, and Tenants and Neighbors on further action.

Please visit this page to view plans of action to address capital improvements, rent increases in rent controlled and rent stabilized buildings.

Are you for or against the amendment to Local Law 43 to shorten the time span for No. 4 heating oil?

Additional Resources:

 “Fuel Poverty in the USA: the Overview and the Outlook” 

http://www.nyc.gov/html/gbee/html/plan/plan.shtml

http://www.mailman.columbia.edu/academic-departments/centers/niehs-center-environmental-health

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