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Low-Sulfur Heating Oil Becomes the Law in Maine

April 30, 2010

On Monday, Gov. John Baldacci signed into law a bill that would lower the sulfur content of home heating oil in Maine, according to a press release from the governor’s office. The bill would require heating oil to contain no more than 0.05 percent sulfur by weight starting January 1, 2014, and no more than 0.0015 percent by weight—the same sulfur content as ultra low-sulfur diesel—starting January 1, 2018. Maine’s House of Representatives and Senate approved the bill in the last week of March.

Though the bill’s original inspiration sprung from a desire to protect the air in Maine’s Acadia National Park, the governor cited statewide health benefits of the bill as a key factor in his decision:

The resulting cleaner air is good news for all Maine citizens. This is especially beneficial for populations most susceptible to health issues caused by pollution: the young, elderly, asthmatics, and those who have lung or heart problems. Regional health impact studies have suggested that Maine can save nearly $150 million in avoided health costs associated with the implementation of this program.

Legislatures across the Northeast are considering similar bills that would make heating oil a cleaner and greener heating fuel by reducing its sulfur content, adding biodiesel to home heating oil, or both. Maine’s bill, unlike proposals in Connecticut and Pennsylvania, does not require that heating oil be blended with biodiesel.

Low-sulfur heating oil won’t just bring health and environmental benefits to Maine; individual heating oil consumers will see better performance from their heating systems because a low-sulfur fuel burns more efficiently and cleaner, which means that heating systems will require less maintenance. That’s why the Maine Energy Marketers Association—an industry group composed of heating oil, propane, and other energy dealers—joined groups like the Natural Resources Council of Maine and the Maine Chapter of the National Lung Association to support the new low-sulfur standard for heating oil.

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