Rules for Industrial Generators Will Protect the Public from Dangerous Air Pollution

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has proposed a new rule to control air pollution from distributed generation sources—like those found at large apartment complexes, or commercial and industrial buildings. The proposed rule—Part 222—has been in the works for over a decade, and the time has come to get the regulation on the books.

Regulations are necessary to reduce harmful air pollution

The proposed rule will improve air quality for all New Yorkers by reducing emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter from unregulated generators. NOx and particulate matter trigger a host of health problems, like difficulty breathing, asthma attacks, and heart attacks. Asthma is a serious health concern in New York State, especially in environmental justice areas. Over 1.4 million adults and 315,000 children suffer from asthma in New York, and it costs us $1.3 billion each year.Commercial diesel generator

These regulations are timely due to the potential for an uptick in the use of generators in the coming years. The state’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative aims to create markets that will favor distributed energy resources, like solar panels and energy efficiency. While the policy objective of REV is to foster clean energy growth, it could inadvertently encourage owners to run their dirty generators more frequently. DEC’s proposed rule will prevent this perverse outcome and ensure that generator owners will have to control their air pollution if they want to participate in energy markets.

The proposed rule is well crafted to maintain electric grid reliability and protect air quality

Some owners of dirty little diesel generators have argued that the proposed rule will result in blackouts and other service disruptions, but this allegation is inaccurate. Under the proposed rule, generators that run only in emergency situations do not have to install air pollution controls. Generators who want to run outside of emergencies and participate in the energy market get an extra year to comply with the rule, and some generators could even delay compliance until 2019. This proposed allowance should be tightened, not loosened. If DEC gave those non-emergency generators a permanent exemption, NOx emissions in New York City could increase by 127 tons per day—that’s more than the single largest source of NOx emissions in the country! If generator owners want to operate for profit, then they need to play by the rules.

Environmental Advocates recently had the opportunity to comment on DEC’s proposed rule (read my testimony here). We will also be submitting written comments with our partner clean energy organizations. Environmental Advocates urges DEC to strengthen and finalize Part 222 as soon as possible.

Author: Ashley Welsch