Spring Burn Ban, RGGI and Your Internet Carbon Footprint - 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
  • Annual Spring Burn Ban
  • Reducing Power Plant Emissions with RGGI
  • Tracking Your Internet Carbon Footprint
  • 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.

Annual Spring Burn Ban

As we get ready to celebrate Air Quality Awareness week, let us also be aware that NY’s open burning ban is now in effect. March 16 marked the first day of the annual spring burn ban that is effective through May 14. This statewide ban temporarily outlaws burning residential brush and yard debris to safeguard our communities and natural resources from wildfires and reduce air pollution and protect human health.burning brush

Open burning of yard debris is one of the leading causes of spring wildfires in NYS. Warm spring temperatures and lack of snow cover dry out the previous fall’s debris and leaves, increasing the risk of fires spreading out of control. Last year, 192 wildfires were reported that burned more than 1,122 acres. Since the start of the annual burn ban in 2009, spring wildfires have decreased by more than 40 percent. Smoke from wildfires is also more dangerous than emissions from other sources due to the heavy concentration of fine particles, which can aggravate respiratory illnesses and trigger asthma attacks.

The annual burn ban does not prohibit small campfires fueled by charcoal or untreated wood. Before you start your campfire, check the Fire Danger Map, posted on DEC's website and on the free New York Fishing, Hunting & Wildlife App, to know the fire risk in your area. Campfires should never be left unattended and must be extinguished when done. Also, remember that burning trash and leaves is not allowed in NYS at any time of the year. Let’s keep our neighborhoods and yards wildfire-free by building safe campfires and burning our yard debris responsibly after the burn ban ends. 

Reducing Power Plant Emissions with RGGI

Hands holding earthIn December 2020, Governor Cuomo announced new regulations to support and strengthen the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) program. RGGI is the nation’s first regional cap-and-trade program that promotes clean energy by limiting and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from electric generating stations, also known as power plants. The new regulations, administered by DEC and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), advance the State’s portion of regional cap reductions from 2021 to 2030. The update will ensure the regional emission in 2030 will be 65 percent below the 2009 starting cap level. NY’s cap now matches the other participating RGGI states. These regulations will also support the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) requirement of reducing GHG emissions by 85 percent by 2050.

The adoption of the regulations marks a critical milestone for NY's clean energy and climate plan. Visit our website to learn more about these and other climate change regulations and programs.

Tracking Your Internet Carbon Footprint

According to the International Energy Agency, global internet usage and time spent online has skyrocketed in recent years, seeing a 40 percent increase in just two months beginning in February 2020. The coronavirus pandemic probably helped this increase by keeping people indoors more, but the trend is on the rise. While handheld smart devices may lead us to think they have little environmental impact, all of our internet and electronic activities leave behind their carbon footprint.green keyboard

Even when we are not personally using the internet, vast amounts of electricity are used by massive data centers powering online searches, websites, and streaming services. If the electricity used in these computing warehouses is generated from a non-renewable resource, it produces greenhouse gas emissions that pollute the air and perpetuate climate change. Every time we use our devices to access streaming service, enter a search query, or send a text or email, multiple servers and processors transfer and crunch the data, consume electricity, and generate emissions. 

In addition to powering servers, these data centers have to cool, too, using a significant amount of energy in the process. Some companies use sea and lake water for cooling, even dunking entire data centers into the ocean to see how much cooling effect the briny water provides.

As internet users, there are many things we can do to reduce our internet carbon footprint. The following tips can be helpful:

  • Turn off your computer and unplug the chargers when not in use.
  • Turn off unwatched televisions.
  • Consider service providers that use renewable energy sources at their data centers or employ carbon offsetting practices.
  • Use cloud services for data storage and sharing.
  • Use smaller devices, if applicable, as they consume less electricity.
  • Opt-out or unsubscribe from unneeded email marketing campaigns.

NYS is continuously working toward making the transition to renewable energy easier with policies and programs to introduce new and retain the existing wind and hydroelectric projects. In 2019, NYS passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protect Act (Climate Act) which sets statewide greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. The Climate Act also lays out targets for renewable electricity generation and energy efficiency. Many big tech companies have also taken a step forward and pledged to achieve carbon neutrality. By supporting such companies and keeping online habits in check, we can help reduce the internet's environmental impact. NYSERDA has tips on how to Reduce Your Footprint to achieve carbon neutrality at your home.

Helpful Links

  • DECinfo 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 or, for the most up-to-date species availability information, call (518) 587-1120, Monday through Friday, 8 AM to 4 PM.
  • March 16 to May 14: Annual Spring Burn Ban – Temporarily outlaws burning of residential brush and yard debris.
  • April 1: April Fool’s Day – Air pollution is no joke. Please 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.
  • April 26: National Arbor Day – Trees clean the air by absorbing odors and pollutants and trapping them in their leaves and bark. They also make the all-important oxygen that we all breathe.
  • April 25 to May 1: Water Week – Clean water is essential to everyone, just as clean air is. Learn about ways to keep water clean by preventing water pollution in the first place. 
  • May 2 to 8: International Compost Awareness Week – The theme for 2021 in the United States is Grow, Eat…COMPOST…Repeat. The program's goal is to raise awareness of the benefits of using compost.
  • May 3 to 7: Air Quality Awareness Week – This year's theme is Healthy Air – Important for Everyone! Air Quality Awareness Week's goal is to increase awareness of how important clean air is and inspire people to take steps to reduce their contribution to air pollution. Let’s take action together to keep our air clean.

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:

We would like to know what you think. Please send your Air Mail! questions or comments to us at DAR.web@dec.ny.gov.