NYC councilmembers ask mayor to adopt biomethane

By Erin Voegele | July 11, 2018

A dozen New York City councilmembers recently sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio urging him to explore the use of biomethane fuel, which could be used by both NYC surface transit and in city fleets.

Within the letter, the city council members noted ultra-low carbon biomethane can be used in any compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicle, including the hundreds of CNG buses already in the New York City Transit fleet. They said that far too many city vehicles are still reliant on diesel fuel, and stressed that a swift transition to CNG-capable vehicles that can use biomethane would enable these fleets to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emission by a least 70 percent.

“When biomethane is combined with “near zero” emission natural gas engines, emissions of health-damaging street-level pollutants like nitrogen oxides and particulate matter are reduced 90 percent below EPA requirements—a public-health win for the often low-income communities that house many of the city’s bus and truck depots,” they wrote on the letter.

Longer term, the letter notes the city could align its Zero Waste and Clean Fleet goals by using biogas generated at the city’s 14 wastewater treatment plants to make biomethane, or by anaerobic digestion of food waste collected under the City of New York Department of Sanitation commercial or residential requirements.

"Those goals and practices need better alignment, and the letter shows leadership in flagging that," said Matt Tomich, president of the NGO Energy Vision, which released the letter.  "New York City pledged to achieve the best air quality of any major U.S. city by 2050 and to cut GHGs 80 percent from its municipal fleet vehicles by 2035.  But city fleets plan to keep buying diesel heavy vehicles, which would lock in diesel emissions for years."

Energy Vision issued a report last month finding that continued reliance on diesel for municipal heavy vehicles would prevent the City from reaching those goals, and that RNG offered by far the best fuel alternative for heavy vehicles. Last month health experts and public interest groups including Energy Vision called on New York City to stop procuring diesels, and adopt superior alternatives, especially CNG vehicles fueled with RNG.

The 12 city council members who sent the letter are members of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus. A full copy of the letter can be downloaded from Energy Vision’s website