The Department of Environmental Protection has taken an important step toward improving air quality and protecting public health in New Jersey by adopting rules requiring significant reductions in sulfur content for home heating oil and other types of fuel oil used in the state, Commissioner Bob Martin announced today.
At the same time, the rules give refiners and distributors ample time to make preparations for the tougher standards and prevent potential price spikes for consumers.
"This rule is an important component of New Jersey's plan to reduce air pollution and improve public health and welfare, which are priorities of the DEP, '' said Commissioner Martin. "This will markedly reduce sulfur dioxide, particulate and nitrogen oxide emissions, making New Jersey a much healthier place to live.
"At the same time, we have provided a strict but reasonable time frame to allow industry to be able to install new equipment and prepare to meet these new standards. This is a win for all sides.''
A new maximum sulfur content standard of 500 parts per million for home heating oil and lighter grade fuel oil will take effect on July 1, 2014, and a second phase of more stringent standards to reduce sulfur to 15 parts per million will take effect on July 1, 2016. That is down from current maximums of 2,000 to 3,000 parts per million.
By providing almost 6 years to phase in the 15 parts per million sulfur limit, New Jersey is ensuring the refining industry has enough time to make the needed changes without causing disruption in the fuel supply or spikes in prices.
In moving to adopt tougher sulfur standards, New Jersey joins an effort undertaken by many other Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states in a regional strategy to reduce air pollution, said Commissioner Martin. New York, Connecticut and Maine recently passed legislation mandating a 15 parts per million home heating oil standards, while Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Hampshire, Vermont, Delaware, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia also are considering sulfur reductions.
Sulfur dioxide, which is formed from burning fuel containing sulfur, plays a major role in fine particulate formation, acid rain and reduced visibility. Regional strategies to reduce these emissions are important because air pollution is carried across state borders by the wind, the Commissioner noted.
The new rules will affect refineries, fuel oil storage facilities, fuel oil distributors and fuel oil users, including commercial, industrial and residential users. The rules, however, will not apply to on- and -off-road diesel fuel, which is regulated by the federal government.
Under the State's new rules, home heating oil must be as clean as ultra low sulfur diesel fuel (ULSD) currently available for diesel vehicles. This also will make home heating oil as clean as natural gas and enable the use of high efficiency condensing furnaces, which can significantly reduce oil use by about 10 percent, saving money for persons who buy such furnaces.
Also, the cleaner fuel will result in less frequent cleaning and maintenance on oil furnaces, saving money for all users of heating oil. Over time these savings will more than offset the potential increased cost to produce the lower sulfur heating oil, which is expected to be less than 9 cents per gallon.
The DEP's amendment to sulfur content standards came after a series of public meetings held over the past five years. The Department declined some industry requests to lower sulfur standards to just 500 parts per million or 50 parts per million, but opted for the stricter 15 parts per million standard that is being adopted.
The tougher sulfur rules will help New Jersey meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for fine particles, sulfur dioxide and ozone. They also will help the State meet improved visibility goals of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast Visibility Union, of which New Jersey is a member.
The amended sulfur rules will be published in the New Jersey Register on Sept. 20.