New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) proposed a rule change that would impact coal and wood-fired ovens used for making pizzas installed before 2016; the rule, if implemented, would require restaurants to evaluate their exhaust systems to determine if they can be outfitted with scrubbers capable of trapping pollutants. If so, they will be required to install and maintain them and that could come at a hefty price in excess of $20,000 per oven. The policy change is being suggested to reduce pollutants and emissions into the atmosphere, which some say alters weather and ultimately climate. There is no peer reviewed science that supports such a claim. The DEP also says the policy is designed to reduce potentially harmful particulates from the air; however, due to the low number of pizza ovens compared to the high number of particulate-emitting objects in the city such as buses, it isn’t clear if a rule specific to pizza ovens would help improve the overall particulate make-up in the Big Apple’s air.
“All New Yorkers deserve to breathe healthy air and wood- and coal-fired stoves are among the largest contributors of harmful pollutants in neighborhoods with poor air quality, ” the DEP said in a statement. “This common-sense rule, developed with restaurant and environmental justice groups, requires a professional review of whether installing emission controls is feasible.”
The DEP is soliciting public comments on the rule change through July 27. After that point, the DEP could decide to enforce the rule or not implement it.
New York City is known around the world for its high-quality pizzas. A spin on Neapolitan-style pizza made in Italy in the late 1800’s, New York pizzerias took off in the Big Apple in the early 1900s. The first pizzeria in the United States was in New York; founded by Gennaro Lombardi and called Lombardi’s in Little Italy in 1905, the restaurant offered whole pizzas for about 5 cents. More and more pizzerias opened, with many using coal-fired ovens to bake their pizza with cheese on the bottom and sauce on top. Since then, more than 400 pizza restaurants have opened in New York City alone, all taking their own approach to the popular thin crust pizza format famous in the region.
In May 2016, New York City required new restaurants to have more environmentally-friendly pizza ovens installed; this rule change would force other older establishments to catch-up to the new requirements. The DEP estimates that at least 100 restaurants would be impacted by the rule change.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams said he supports the rule change even if it means many pizza places will need to close because they can’t afford the changes. “Every toxic entity that we remove from our air is adding up to the overall desire to deal with shrinking our carbon footprint,” the Mayor said.
New York City has been cracking down on kitchens and food for the sake of the environment for many years now.
In 2019, as part of the New Green Deal signed into law by then-Mayor Bill de Blasio, a so-called “hot dog ban” went into effect. The law phases out the amount of meat served within city-controlled agencies such as hospitals, schools, and correctional facilities.
At that time, Mayor Eric Adams, who was the Brooklyn Borough President at the time, said, ““I am particularly thrilled that this City has taken up our mantle to reduce our overconsumption of meat through the phasing out of processed meat purchasing and the reduction of beef purchasing; make no mistake, addressing the carbon-intensive activity of meat production is a sustainable solution for the health of our bodies and our planet alike. Nearly 50 years after the first Earth Day celebration, the clock is ticking on our ability to secure a sustainable future for our children and grandchildren.” He also said, ““I’m in for a Green New Deal. From grassroots advocates, who have been sounding the environmental alarm for decades, to my fellow local elected colleagues, our shared mission is to make aggressive moves that combat the climate change crisis threatening the very existence of our planet.”
Earlier this year, New York state also became the first state to ban natural gas connections in new buildings. Beginning in 2026, new buildings with 7 or fewer stories will have to use induction and electric devices in the kitchen. Larger buildings will need to make the transition starting in 2029.
Elon Musk weighed into the debate on Twitter, saying that the “utter BS” rules “won’t make a difference to climate change.”