A California City Just Banned New Gas Stations. What's Next?

U.S. cities are starting to move away from fossil fuels.
Brad Bergan

Officials in a Californian city called Petaluma have decided to ban the construction of new gas stations in a unanimous vote from the city council following a two-year moratorium passed in early 2019, according to a local news source.

California city bans new gas stations

The Petaluma city council needs to approve the measure once more at another reading on Monday, but once this happens the bill will immediately take effect — making the city the first in the U.S. to permanently halt the construction of additional gas stations.

This new decision is linked to the city's overarching climate goals to reach zero emissions by 2030, and also reifies the growing status of all-electric in the automotive industry for cars and trucks. Crucially, this sends a message to other cities that the industry is beginning to shift, and there's no better time to prepare than the present.

Petaluma has a size of only 15 square miles (39 square kilometers), with 16 gas stations and one more recently approved for construction. City officials think 17 will be more than enough for the city's 61,000 residents, and those of the future.

"Based on this inventory, there are multiple stations located within a 5-minute drive (2.1 miles at 25 mph) of every existing residence as well as all areas planned for residential development by the 2025 General Plan but not yet constructed," said the bill.

An environmental nonprofit helped the campaign

The ban will also prohibit existing gas stations in the city from adding more pumps. But to streamline the conversion process, the new legislation includes steps to help gas stations add electric vehicle chargers — and even hydrogen fuel cell stations — in the coming years.

"This is a massive step forward in the fight to protect communities and the climate from fossil fuels," said the environmental nonprofit Stand.earth, whose program called Stand Against Fossil Fuel Expansion Cities lent support for the bill's campaign, according to a tweet from the nonprofit.

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Another environmental organizing group — the Coalition Opposing New Gas Stations (CONGAS) — pushed for two years for a ban on new gas stations in the entirety of Sonoma County — which includes not only Petaluma, but also eight other cities.

At present, transportation is the largest source of carbon emissions in the country. This includes not only cars and trucks, but jet airplanes and other forms of public transportation. In other words, gas station bans are likely only the beginning of steps to reduce carbon emissions in the U.S.

"In the 2020s, this is not the time to be expanding fossil fuel infrastructure," said Co-Coordinator Woody Hastings of CONGAS, in an Axios report. As public familiarity with all-electric vehicles grows, consumers will have a larger variety of brands — General Motors aims for 30 new models by 2025, for example. And, as options multiply, so will public support and demand for gas stations begin to ebb, in favor of sustainable ones.

This was a breaking story and was regularly updated as new information became available.

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