So it’s absurd that a City Council bill that would give the commission jurisdiction over the home heating oil industry would not pass easily. But Council members and other elected officials are running away from the bill, fearing a backlash from the politically powerful unions and the home heating oil industry.
The need for the regulations laid out in the City Council bill is painfully evident.
It would empower the Business Integrity Commission to license dealers and their deliverers and to deny licenses to dishonest companies. Companies that committed fraud — by shorting customers or illegally blending waste oil into their shipments — could have their licenses revoked and their trucks impounded, and they could also face criminal penalties.
The Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., has urged the City Council to pass the bill, partly because costly, time-consuming criminal investigations by prosecutors are having what he described as a limited impact on systemic fraud across the home heating oil industry.
The bill made especially good sense, he said, because the commission had proved itself by driving organized crime out of the waste removal industry and because the regulatory structure laid out in the bill closely follows the law under which the commission itself was created.
The oil heating industry and the Teamsters union oppose the bill, arguing unconvincingly that it would be too expensive for the companies and would cost jobs. Other defenders of the status quo contend that the bill represents overkill — because criminality in the industry is relatively rare.
But the indictments that have been leveled against corrupt companies and individuals over the last several decades tell a different story. Moreover, it is just a matter of the time before a new fraud comes to light.