Lower-sulfur heating oil now required in Vermont

Stricter limits on the amount of sulfur in heating fuels went into effect Tuesday.

The new limits will reduce the environmental impacts of haze-causing sulfur dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. State officials say haze can cause cardiovascular and respiratory health problems and damage the environment.

Several Northeastern states want to curb air pollution by transitioning to low-sulfur fuels over the next several years. The sulfur content of No. 2 fuel oil sold in Vermont will now be 0.05 percent by weight and must be 0.0015 percent by weight by 2018.

Elaine O’Grady, air quality director for the Department of Environmental Conservation, said: “Sulfur dioxide emissions also can lead to the acidification of lakes and streams, contribute to the damage of trees and sensitive forest soils and accelerate the decay of building materials and paints.”

The new standards will be good for consumers, according to Matt Cota, executive director of the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association. The cleaner fuel will increase the efficiency and longevity of furnaces and reduce maintenance costs associated with sulfur build-up.

Vermont fuel oil dealers currently hold about 50 percent of the home heating market share in the state, Cota said. In order to regain customers who have switched to propane, natural gas and other cleaner fuels, he said fuel dealers want more sulfur removed and biofuels added to home heating oil.

“They want it because they want to remain competitive,” Cota said. “If we’re all selling the same clean and green fuels, then we have an opportunity to compete against other fuel products … and that from an environmental standpoint we can be proud of.”

Vermont’s tax on diesel fuel also increased 1 cent on Tuesday, bringing to total per-gallon tax to 28 cents. The increase comes as part of the 2013 transportation bill.

John Herrick

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  • Scott Mackey

    Will there be any impact on the price of heating oil to consumers? If there is no impact on consumer prices, why wasn’t this conversion done long ago?

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