Reducing Greenhouse Gas for a Greener Future - Air Mail!

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
  • Growing Energy on a Farm
  • Green Buses: Journey to a Cleaner Future
  • Celebrating Black History Month
  • 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.

Growing Energy on a Farm

With winter’s grip still clutching at NYS, many of us are yearning for the warm winds of spring to blow our way. In rural NY, some of those winds will inevitably carry the smell of farm animals. What you’ve smelled on your trip throughout the countryside is manure spreading; a two-fold technique to dispose of animal fecal waste while boosting the productivity of the farmer’s land through fertilization. Sometimes, farmers also put manure to a different, less stinky use, which also benefits the farm. Both farm manure and municipal sewage waste can be used to fuel biogas digesters, which creates energy and compost while decreasing the release of harmful greenhouse gases and reducing waste.

Biogas digester and cowsBiogas digesters work like large stomachs that break down waste by using anaerobic bacteria. Anaerobic digestion is the chemical process of breaking down materials without oxygen present. The neighbors of these digesters also appreciate the reduction of odors because the digestion process is often enclosed in a silo-type building outfitted with odor-reducing control equipment.

One of the end products made by a digester is a mixture of biogases, which includes flammable methane. The biogas can be used as fuel for boilers to generate heat or to power engines making electricity. The process of burning the biogas breaks down the methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas, into water and less harmful carbon dioxide and other gases.

The other product a digester makes is a nutrient-rich natural fertilizer that can be applied directly to fields. The fertilizer can be processed further by drying it to make a dry cake fertilizer, which can be used on the farm or sold for use elsewhere. By the end of the process, the fertilizer has been greatly reduced in quantity leaving the farmer with a concentrated product that is easier to store and reduces the frequency of spreading, all while giving the fields adequate nutrients.

Wherever the waste comes from - farm animals or cities and towns - digesters are at work breaking down waste to create a useful energy source and rich fertilizer, while also reducing the release of potent greenhouse gases into our atmosphere.

Photo Caption: Many types of biodegradable waste can be used to generate biogas in a digester. Some examples include animal dung, spoiled food, food scraps, crop stalks, foliage, and human waste.

Green Buses: Journey to a Cleaner Future

In December 2020, Governor Cuomo announced a series of initiatives to increase the number of electric transit buses on NYS roads to improve air quality and mitigate climate change. The initiative, administered by NYS Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), includes $33 million from the Volkswagen settlement fund for eligible transit entities to help fund zero-emission transit bus fleets throughout NYS. Electric transit busThe program will be implemented through two rounds. The previously announced first round is providing incentives to 18 eligible transit authorities, while the second round is limited to five transit authorities named in the Governor’s 2020 State of the State address. The NYSERDA program also makes available $2.5 million for school districts and bus contractors to acquire clean, lower emission school buses to improve local air quality and reduce bus exhaust near students to protect their young lungs.

With this initiative, New York State continues to lead the nation in the efforts to improve air quality and promote environmental justice in disadvantaged communities. To further educate the public on air quality issues, DEC will again be participating in Air Quality Awareness Week from May 3-7. This year’s theme is “Healthy Air - Important for Everyone.” The celebration aims to educate people about the importance of air quality and how it affects human and environmental health through the use of the Air Quality Index (AQI).

Photo Credit: Regional Transit Service.

Celebrating Black History Month with a Look Back at the CCC

As part of Black History Month this February, DEC is highlighting a group of black men who served New York as members of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). To combat rampant unemployment among young black men, President Franklin Roosevelt created the CCC in 1933 to perform public works projects. The struggles of the 1930s reached beyond the economic depression. Major environmental issues plagued the nation as well. The impact of poor farming practices, deforestation, and destructive pests were just a few of the things destroying thousands of acres of usable land. Across the nation, the CCC immediately put its CCC 1251 Black History monthcompanies to work solving these two major crises at once.

While black men experienced segregation and racism, they still excelled in their all-black, 100-man companies in this federal public works unit where they were in command right here in NYS. On the Wallkill Flood Control Project in Orange County, workers from the all-Black 246-c unit created a 10-mile-long canal to alter the direction of the river and stem seasonal flooding. Other segregated companies were deployed to fight fast-moving forest fires in Washington State and assist with other projects across the country to protect people, property, and our environment. Although air pollution was not a national priority at the time, planting trees, managing forests, and extinguishing large wildfires helped improve air quality both in the short term and for years to come.

Read more about these brave men on our website, and the connection that continues today through the Student Conservation Association. You will also find the latest DEC staff highlights for Black History Month where you’ll learn about the important work they do every day to protect and conserve NYS’ environment.

Photo Caption: Members of the Civilian Conservation Corps Unit 1251 C II in the 1930s.

Photo Credit: NYS Parks Recreation & Historic Preservation and NYS Archives.

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.
  • Now through May 15: DEC's annual Saratoga Tree Nursery native tree and shrub seedling sale – Dozens of native tree and shrub species will be available for purchase at low cost. Browse this year's selection on our website. Place your order by email form (PDF) or, for the most up-to-date species availability information, call (518) 587-1120, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • February: Black History Month – We honor and celebrate the accomplishments of African Americans throughout history. DEC serves NYS residents by addressing environmental justice concerns in communities of color and low-income communities throughout NYS to ensure healthy air for all, regardless of race, color, national origin, or income.
  • February 21-28: Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Week – Find a CSA near you to eat local, support farms in your community, and reduce transportation air pollution all at the same time.
  • March 16 to May 14: Annual Spring Burn Ban – Temporarily outlaws burning of residential brush and yard debris.
  • March 21: World Forestry Day – Trees help remove air pollution, so it is important to maintain forests to clean our air.
  • March 22: World Water Day – Air pollution can significantly harm water resources.
  • April 1: April Fool’s Day – Air pollution is no joke. Do your part to keep our air clean. Remember to contact your local, state, and federal representatives so that they know our air quality and environmental health is important to you and your family.
  • April 21: John Muir’s Birthday – Known as “The Father of our National Parks,” he inspired people to respect natural resources and explore America’s wilderness.
  • April 22: Earth Day – Remember that Earth Day is every day. Include activities that reduce air pollution such as using less energy at home, walking or biking instead of using a car, and ditching gas-powered lawnmowers. See our website for more tips.

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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