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State bill would reduce sulfur in heating oil

September 7, 2010

Cleaner heating oil means a healthier environment. That's the message at the heart of the Clean Heat Initiative Bill for Pennsylvania, an important piece of legislation that would reduce the sulfur content of heating oil used in 1.2 million homes approximately 26 percent of all households throughout the commonwealth.

By adopting this bill, the state maximum standard for the sulfur content of home heating oil sold after July 2012 would be reduced from 5,000 or 2,500 parts per million (depending on the area of the state) to 15 ppm. This is the same ultra-low levels now required by the federal government in diesel fuel for vehicles.

Reducing the sulfur content automatically increases the efficiency of existing furnaces in homes utilizing oil heat, which reduces emissions. Studies have shown that heating oil meeting these standards results in less frequent furnace tuneups and saves consumers at least 14 cents per gallon on heating oil costs. That translates into more than $85 million in aggregate savings for Pennsylvania consumers every year.

When burned, high-sulfur fuels emit sulfur dioxide in the form of microscopic soot particles known as particulates specks so small they can be breathed into the deepest parts of the lung. The most minute of these can even make their way into the bloodstream. Of all the outdoor air pollutants, exposure to particle pollution from fuels, coal-burning power plants and other industrial uses results in more deaths than any other.

Particulates attack the body's respiratory and cardiovascular functions, resulting in decreased lung function, asthma attacks, development of chronic bronchitis and irregular heartbeats. It's no surprise that the health benefits of a comprehensive low-sulfur fuel strategy (from reduced exposure to fine particle pollution) could be as much as $450 million in Pennsylvania in avoided deaths, cardiovascular symptoms and respiratory disease.

That is why the federal government has required the reduction of sulfur in all fuels. It is the states that need to step up and update their heating oil standards, as New York did earlier this summer.

In fact, it is imperative that Pennsylvania adopt the same 2012 standard as New York to prevent higher sulfur heating oil from making its way into this state instead.

To further reduce unhealthy pollutant emissions, the proposed legislation mandates an increasing percentage of blended biofuel additives. This environmentally sensitive fuel combination also brings the bonus of reduced greenhouse gas emissions in Pennsylvania of anywhere from 560,000 to more than 1.1 million tons per year.

We believe Senate Bill 1282 introduced by Sen. Edwin B. Erickson, R-Chester and Delaware counties, and House Bill 2578 Rep. Camille Bud George, D- Clearfield, are the required pieces of legislation to accomplish a cleaner, cheaper and more efficient heating fuel in Pennsylvania. More importantly, the combined Clean Heat Initiative Bill will help protect the health of a friend, a neighbor, a coworker and even you and your family.

That is why the Lung Association and the state's oil heat dealers are working hard for its passage.

Click here for the full story from The Morning Call

National Oilheat Research Alliance ECC is funded in part through the National Oilheat Research Alliance.