Saving Energy, Transport Update – Air Mail! Newsletter

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
DEC Delivers - Information to keep you connected and informed from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
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This Month's Topics:

  • Public & Stakeholder Participation InformationAir Mail Stamp
  • The Changing Winds of Air Pollution
  • Energy Saving Tips
  • A Bit of Air History: Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990
  • Did You Switch to Reusable Bags?
  • Helpful Links
  • Dates to Remember
  • AQI Alerts for Respiratory Health

Public & Stakeholder Participation Information:

Additional information and access to past announcements are on our Public & Stakeholder Participation Information page.

Air Mail! is the publication to announce public and stakeholder information about air quality topics. All NYS residents are environmental stakeholders – we welcome anyone to join the information sessions and other opportunities posted here.

The Changing Winds of Air Pollution

Air pollution sources can affect more than just their immediate surroundings. Known as interstate transport, pollution can travel quickly from one state to another with natural weather patterns. NYS is affected by this pollution because we are downwind from pollution sources in mid-Atlantic and Midwestern states. Although NYS has some of the strictest air quality regulations in the country, pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can travel to us from these upwind states. NOx and VOCs are harmful to both people and the environment as they are known to cause respiratory problems, such as asthma, and contribute to ozone formation.Smokestacks

In October 2020, EPA proposed the revised Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) to address interstate transport. This rule would require more emissions reductions of NOx from power plants in 12 states, including NY. EPA is accepting comments on the proposed updates through December 14, 2020. Remember that we’re all in this together when it comes to keeping our air clean!

Photo caption: Air pollution from all kinds of sources, including power plants and cars, can be blown across state borders with the weather. Keep in mind that your actions can affect our neighboring states’ air quality as well.

Energy Saving Tips

Staying warm through the fall and winter can be tough, not only on the wallet but also on the environment. Winter home heating increases energy demands on power plants, household boilers, and furnaces, making them work harder and emit more air pollution. Follow these tips to stay warm, and keep our air clean this season:

  • airmail thermostatKeep the heat in: Insulate your attic, walls, and under floors to reduce heat loss. Replace old weather strips, and seal off drafty windows and ductwork, if needed.
  • Set back your thermostat: Lower your home temperature to 68⁰F to save energy and money. Don’t forget to turn down your thermostat at night when you go to sleep. You can also replace that old thermostat with a digital one and automate your temperature adjustments.
  • Maintain your heating system: Have your furnace and water tank serviced to ensure they are running as efficiently and safely as possible. Changing the filter in your furnace can also help reduce dust and allergens in your home.
  • Check outside: Any openings can let in the winter air. Make sure outdoor faucets are sealed or covered and that dryer vent dampers close freely to keep the cold out.
  • Bundle up: Dress in warm layers, or add an extra blanket at night to stay cozy without turning up the heat. Electric blankets are another great way to keep warm without breaking the bank.

By using these energy saving tips at home, you are reducing emissions that pollute our air while saving money. This winter, remember that your actions, big or small, significantly benefit air quality.

Photo caption: Lowering your home temperature is an easy way to save money and energy. Each degree lower until about 60⁰F can save you money.

A Bit of Air History: Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990

Just 30 years ago, the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments were signed into law. This amendment spearheaded efforts to decrease acid rain, urban air pollution, and toxic air emissions. It created a national permitting program, strengthened compliance, phased out ozone-depleting chemicals, and addressed toxic air pollutants' accidental releases. The 1990 Amendments also allowed states to adopt I care about clean airCalifornia’s motor vehicle emission standards, which New York and several other states opted for, resulting in much cleaner cars.

Ultimately, the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 helped create a healthy and productive environment that facilitated economic growth and sound environmental policies. Thanks, in part, to these Amendments, NY’s air is much cleaner now than it was when the Clean Air Act of 1970 was passed into law 50 years ago. Let’s continue to do our part to keep our air clean, NY!

Did You Switch to Reusable Bags?

If you wondered why you do not see plastic bags at store checkout counters anymore, NY’s plastic bag ban is back as of October 19, 2020. The Bag Waste Reduction Law, a ban on most plastic carryout bags, initially went into effect on March 1, but was suspended for a time as per an agreement reached in NYS Supreme Court. DEC has encouraged New Yorkers to use reusable bags wherever and whenever they shop with the #BYOBagNY(Bring Your Own Bag) campaign.

Plastic bag ban graphic OctOf an estimated 23 billion plastic bags that New Yorkers use annually, 85 percent of them are discarded. They blow around in streets, get stuck in trees, and litter waterways, posing a threat to animals. Not only that, activities involved in manufacturing, shipping, and incinerating these plastic bags produces a significant amount of emissions, polluting our air.

Reusable bags are a more environmentally friendly option to these plastic bags. Not only do reusable bags, either fabric or plastic, decrease plastic waste and paper consumption, but they also help to reduce emissions, decrease water pollution, and help keep our environment litter-free. Let us all support this practice by carrying reusable bags on shopping trips.

For additional information about the bag ban, as well as tips for keeping reusable bags clean, please visit DEC's website.

Helpful Links:

  • DEC info Locator – An interactive map that lets you access DEC documents and public data about the environmental quality of specific sites in NYS, as well as outdoor recreation information.
  • DEC Delivers – Stay in-the-know by subscribing to the environmental topics that interest you. DEC Delivers will send you information, updates, and e-newsletters on the topics of your choosing. As an Air Mail! subscriber, you may be interested in subscribing to the Air Quality Alert topic so you know when air quality levels are a concern in your area.
  • AQI Forecasts – Check the daily ozone and particulate matter pollution forecast for your area of NYS.
  • NYSDEC YouTube – Keep up with what's going on with DEC staff by subscribing to our YouTube channel. Watch video clips of DEC public protection in action, learn about the Hudson River, or watch the latest episode of "On the Front Lines," DEC's video series.

Dates to Remember:

  • Second Tuesday of the Month: Sustainability Lunchtime Learning Webinars – A monthly series covering numerous topics of interest, such as choosing a green cleanser, climate-friendly air conditioning, and water conservation. Pre-registration is required.
  • November 28: Thanksgiving – Compost your food waste to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from landfills.
  • December 2: 1,4-Dioxane Limits for Consumer Products – DEC’s Pollution Prevention Unit will discuss the new limits of 1,4-dioxane in household cleaning, personal care, and cosmetic products. Attendees must register before attending. 
  • December 5: World Soil Day – Soil plays a big role in air quality by filtering chemicals before reaching our air.
  • December 11: CERCLA of 1980, also known as “Superfund,” was enacted – A significant environmental regulation that provides federal funding for the cleanup of hazardous waste sites.
  • December 14 through January 5: Holiday Bird Counts – Grab some binoculars and head out to conduct some citizen science by identifying and counting birds over the holidays. You can join up with your local birding group or head to a scheduled bird count event at one of DEC’s Environmental Education Centers. Be sure to wear your mask if birding with a group of people outside your immediate household.

Stay Informed about Your Air Quality

NYS' ozone season runs from April through September. DEC publishes ground-level ozone forecasts during ozone season and particulate matter pollution forecasts year-round using a scale called the Air Quality Index (AQI). DEC sends out an air quality alert when there is a high AQI value, which indicates polluted air. Individuals with pre-existing respiratory or cardiovascular conditions, and people who exercise outdoors should take caution during an air quality alert. Find out if an Air Quality Alert is in effect by calling the toll-free Ozone Hotline: 1-800-535-1345.

The AQI can be accessed in three ways:

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