Memo 1: Soot Pollution and Government Mitigation

To: Professor MacBride
From: Steven Sklyarevskiy
Date: 2/13/13
Re: Changing heating methods in NYC due to soot pollution

Fuel lobbies seem to be under the impression that clever names like “clean coal” and green, flowery designs are enough to make people overlook the harmful side-effects the have. However, it will take more than a good PR team to make New Yorkers overlook the dark plumes of soot that even billow out of their own buildings.

The EPA and Mayor Bloomberg have recently put out plans to reduce harmful soot pollution that have led to countless ailments including asthma and cancer. Although some may see this as a step in the right direction, a large amount of NYC infrastructure is out-of-date and would either have to cut down on the heat it produces or be overhauled to be able to handle other types of fuel. In my paper, I plan to research the way that poor and middle class apartment buildings produce heat, the harmful effects that the soot and other by-products have, and the plans put forward to prevent them, whether those plans are feasible and effective.

I plan on using online databases and articles for most of my research but I am also considering reaching out to the EPA, somebody in the NYC government, or even an ordinary landlord for an more human perspective.

The role that Mayor Bloomberg and the federal government play will determine if their plans will make things better or worse. Are they planning on just putting caps on soot polluted or will they actively be helping these old building come into the 21st century?

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1 Response to Memo 1: Soot Pollution and Government Mitigation

  1. Samantha MacBride says:

    Hi Steven

    Great topic — by looking at soot in particular you are addressing an environmental problem with a very, very long history in industrial cities. Here are some ideas:

    1. I like that you are focusing on soot (aka PM, or particulate matter) specificially from building heating systems. So you are looking at boilers as your technology. You may want to specify what kind of fuel they take — oil or natural gas.

    2. PM is one of the pollutants regulated by the US Clean Air Act ( There are others, but right now carbon dioxide and methane are not considered pollutants. But they are GHG’s. In keeping with the focus on climate change mitigation and adaptation, try to take GHG emissions from boilers into account along with particulate matter.

    Keep the questions coming!

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