De Blasio air quality rules would target restaurants, food trucks

Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks with commuters in Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks with commuters in the Union Square subway station on his way to City Hall following a speech at Earth Day 2014 event at Union Square on Tuesday, April 22, 2014. Photo Credit: Bryan Smith

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Mayor Bill de Blasio backs proposed antipollution laws that would require many restaurants and commercial kitchens to install emission filters on ovens and char-broilers, ban new wood-burning fireplaces and encourage refrigerated trucks to switch to battery power from diesel fuel.

The proposals, to be discussed this afternoon before the City Council's Committee on Environmental Protection, would affect eateries across the five boroughs -- mom-and-pop pizzerias, food vendor trucks, high-volume char-broilers and vehicles that deliver or serve refrigerated food or beverages.

Sponsors say the rules would save hundreds of lives every year by removing from the air unhealthy particulate matter that causes diseases from emphysema and asthma to diabetes.

"There's more we can do to keep our air clean, and we're devoted to doing it," de Blasio said Tuesday at an Earth Day festival in Union Square. "It is the best tool we have to ensure that every possible form of pollution of the air is addressed, and addressed stringently. We're going to make sure we do that."

The New York City Hospitality Alliance and the New York State Restaurant Association, which represent many of the affected establishments, did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Food purveyors would need to change the way they operate under the proposals.

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Char-broilers in establishments that cook at least 875 pounds of meat or seafood a week would need to install the devices. So would restaurants with coal or wood-fired pizza ovens.

Food trucks that don't switch to the cleanest technology -- currently battery-powered refrigeration -- would face annual fees. Trucks that deliver perishables such as frozen food would also face new restrictions on idling.

The rules would also ban the building of new wood-burning fireplaces anywhere in the city, including homes. Only fireplaces that burn fuels such as natural gas would be allowed. Existing fireplaces could not legally burn wood with moisture content greater than 20 percent. Moist wood, officials say, releases more pollutants than the drier variety.

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