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Energy Vision Testimony in New York City Council Budget Hearing Urges NYC Fleets to Get Off Diesel and Onto Renewable Natural Gas for Health and Climate Benefits


New York, NY - May 24, 2018 ( Newswire) Joanna Underwood, founder and chair of the sustainable energy NGO Energy Vision, delivered testimony before the New York City Council at today's executive budget hearing, urging the Council to use its budgetary powers to encourage NYC municipal fleets to stop procuring more diesel heavy vehicles, and to adopt superior alternatives to diesel, especially renewable natural gas (RNG) made from organic wastes. Diesel exhaust is high in emissions that damage the climate and public health, and which RNG would reduce more than other alternatives. Underwood's testimony is pasted in below in full. She and other expert sources are available for interviews.

NY City Council Fiscal Year 2019
Executive Budget Hearings
City Hall, May 24, 2018

Testimony by Energy Vision

Today, Energy Vision in partnership with the NY League of Conservation Voters, WE ACT for Environmental Justice and leading health experts are calling on New York City to get its municipal fleets off diesel. Superior alternatives exist, making this shift possible, and the City Budget Process could encourage this shift.

We are asking the City and MTA to take the following actions:

Diesel exhaust is a major source of climate-changing greenhouse gases. Its nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions threaten public health, causing cardiovascular damage and triggering asthma attacks. New York's childhood asthma rates have tripled in the last three decades and now afflict an astonishing 13.3% of children up to the age of 18 living in this City (almost twice the national average).

London has banned purchase of new diesel vehicles and other major cities are restricting or eliminating them. In the US, 60% of the refuse trucks on order are natural gas models which can run on CNG or RNG, since the fuels are practically identical chemically (both CH4). But in our city, only 2% of the 2,100 trucks in the sanitation fleet run on natural gas. Nationwide, more than 20,000 refuse trucks burn RNG - none are in NYC.

NYC agencies continue to rely on diesel vehicles, and their budgets call for buying many more. Why do that when there are much better alternatives? New diesel procurement deserves to end now, and the budget process could help make it happen. The City Council could play a leadership role by framing its budget guidelines so they encourage City agencies to seize the opportunity we have now to deploy better alternatives for this world-class city, and to be a world-class model for greening our fleets.

A new Energy Vision report, Ending the Diesel Era: Cleaner Fleets for a Healthier New York City, contains the latest evidence showing why it is vital and timely for the City to eliminate diesel heavy-duty vehicles and adopt alternatives. Among its findings are these:

1). The City can't meet its ambitious climate and air quality goals with diesel -- It has pledged to achieve the best air quality of any major U.S. city by 2050 and to cut GHGs 80% from its municipal fleet vehicles by 2035. But to meet these goals will require shifting from diesel fuel.

2). Heavy-duty vehicles are the key -- Heavy-duty diesel trucks consume 60% of all City fleet fuel and generate 62% of fleet greenhouse gases. Their exhaust contains not just nitrogen oxides and particulates but also carcinogens. It is much more dangerous to health than gasoline exhaust. They are therefore the most important targets for change.

3). RNG is the best alternative -- Natural gas vehicles equipped with commercially available "Near Zero" engines, and powered by RNG offer the fastest, healthiest, most cost-effective way for the City to attain its climate and air quality goals.

The engine and fuel are commercial products, widely available here and now. The fuel is made by capturing and refining the methane biogases from decomposing organic wastes, which would otherwise escape into the air as powerful climate-changing gases. RNG is the lowest carbon fuel available, reducing GHG emissions by 70% to 300% compared to diesel. How can that be? If food wastes or manures are the main "feedstocks," more greenhouse gases (methane) are captured in making the fuel than are emitted by the vehicles burning it (carbon dioxide). This makes it a net carbon-negative fuel over its lifecycle. 

RNG is by far the cleanest fuel option for heavy vehicles. Burned in the Near Zero engine, RNG's particulate and nitrogen oxide emissions are 90% below EPA allowable limits. Near Zero engines are also 50 to 80% quieter than diesel engines. 

RNG can be easily deployed in New York starting now. There are already seven public-access CNG refueling stations within the five boroughs, plus a DSNY facility in Woodside, Queens, as well as a large station in Newark, NJ to which DSNY trucks make over 100 trips a day. These are sufficient to serve hundreds more natural gas trucks. A new RNG-capable refueling station is opening in the Bronx soon, and many private sector companies are eager to expand New York's non-diesel refueling infrastructure.

RNG is an affordable option that can save the City money. Natural gas vehicles have an upfront cost that is roughly 20% higher than diesel equivalents -- about $40,000 more per vehicle. But that difference can be more than offset by operational and fuel cost savings. Fuel providers have guaranteed to deliver RNG to New York at the same price as CNG, which is about a dollar less per gallon than diesel.

4). Renewable diesel is a distant second -- This year the City announced a pilot program to use renewable diesel (RD) fuel in its existing heavy-duty vehicles. But renewable diesel (RD) doesn't compare with the benefits with RNG. While it is not a petroleum product, it is made mainly from oils and residues of energy crops such as soy or palm oil; growing such crops for fuel causes land use and other environmental impacts that can aggravate climate change. RD would cut GHG emissions 60%, but RNG cuts GHGs 80% using conservative assumptions. That's an important difference; it means that RNG would generally cut GHG emissions 25% more than RD, using conservative assumptions. But the potential difference is much greater because RNG can be net-carbon-negative, and depending on what feedstocks are used to make it, its GHG reduction can be much, much higher - all the way up to 300% reduction compared to diesel. That would be five times the GHG emissions reduction of RD.

Use of RD requires no infrastructure changes, which is convenient since it can be burned in existing diesel engines, but RD is not the optimal choice for public health. Its NOx and particulate emissions are comparable to conventional diesel, which is 90% higher than Near Zero engines running on RNG. Finally, RD fuel is much more expensive. There is no local supply, so this liquid fuel has to be transported across the country via truck, rail or barge, and the City will pay a premium of about $1.50 per gallon (e.g. $26 million a year over petroleum diesel.) RNG would save New York as much as $2.50 per gallon compared to RD.

RNG has another important benefit: it can help solve the City's waste problem. RNG can be used to fuel NYC trucks right now, since it can be transported through existing natural gas pipelines and delivered via existing natural gas refueling stations. But longer term, the City can make RNG fuel from its own organic waste stream. Some RNG production capacity exists in New York and more is being developed in the region. However, processing the 1.2 million tons of food waste that New Yorkers generate each year would produce enough RNG fuel to displace ALL the diesel fuel used in the City's municipal fleets now -- more than 17 million gallons per year.

At present, this City is letting its organic waste stream go to ‘waste' instead of recognizing it as a valuable energy resource. The City spends $400 million a year to export its waste; a third of which is organics. Instead of discarding them, New Yorkers could get powerful economic and environmental benefits from harnessing its organics to produce RNG for its own fleets. It is time for New York's fleets, especially its huge refuse fleet, to start aggressively phasing out diesel as many other cities - including Los Angeles, Sacramento, Seattle and Vancouver - as well as private haulers across the country are doing.


"DSNY takes pride - and rightly so - in efficiently operating the largest refuse fleet in the US. So why is it dragging its feet in replacing its outmoded diesel trucks with the more sophisticated technology available today? The new ‘Near Zero' natural gas engines are here now, and the trucks are affordable. RNG fuel is here now, and there are already natural gas refueling stations in place that can deliver this new fuel reliably and affordably. All DSNY has to do is do it. The health and environmental benefits cry out for responsible action."

--Norman Steisel, Chairman of EnEssCo, former Department of Sanitation (DSNY) Commissioner, former Deputy Mayor of NYC, and an Energy Vision board member

"Energy Vision's new report is just the kind of resource that New York policymakers need as they seek to address New York's significant air pollution and climate change issues."

-- Marcia Bystryn, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters

"For too long diesel fumes from NYC's buses and trucks have been poisoning our children and families. Energy Vision's report shows that we no longer need to rely on diesel engine technology and fuel. Better choices are available. It is time for the City Council and Mayor to provide leadership in moving our fleets to the fuels of the future." -- Cecil D. Corbin-Mark, Deputy Director and Director of Policy Initiatives, WE ACT for Environmental Justice

"While diesel engines long had the benefits of power and fuel use efficiency, I am now convinced that they are an outmoded choice. New natural gas heavy-duty engines have the power to do what NYC trucks need to do with less noise and much less pollution or carbon impact. It is time for New York's fleets, especially its huge refuse fleet, to start aggressively phasing out diesel as many other cities and private haulers across the country are doing."

-- Brendan Sexton, former DSNY Commissioner, former Chair of the City's Procurement Policy Board and an Energy Vision board member

"Getting rid of diesel is the right thing to do. It will improve the quality of life. It will be highly cost-effective. Replacing diesel vehicles with safer, non-polluting alternatives will reduce rates of asthma among our children. It will reduce myocardial infarctions, cardiac arrhythmias, and strokes among New York City's adults. It will reduce risk of lung cancer. And because it will prevent many cases of these debilitating diseases, the elimination of diesel trucks and buses from the vehicle fleets in New York will reduce health care costs and save money. And it can solidify New York City's position as an environmental leader." -- Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, Dean of Global Health, Mt. Sinai Hospital

"The disproportionate health impacts from diesel trucks is one of the most important environmental justice issues in New York City. While all neighborhoods will benefit from a transition to lower-emission vehicles, neighborhoods with the highest air pollution-related health impacts deserve to be prioritized as fleet conversion occurs." -- Kevin R. Cromar, Ph.D, Director of the Air Quality Program at New York University's Marron Institute of Urban Management

"Our children are our future, and in one of this country's greatest cities, we must set an example giving them a healthy environment to grow up in. Energy Vision has long been a leader in finding solutions, and this new report on ending the diesel era has done it again." -- Blythe Danner, Actor and Environmental Advocate

 NOTE TO EDITORS AND PRODUCERS: Energy Vision's "Ending the Diesel Era" report is posted here. Expert sources are available for interviews. To arrange one, or for more information, please contact Stephen Kent,, 914-589-5988.

Energy Vision is a non-profit organization whose mission is to research, analyze and promote technologies and strategies that are viable today and required to transition to a sustainable, low-carbon energy and transportation future.

Energy Vision
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