Los Angeles and local governments across the US and Canada form growing wave to prohibit new gas station construction as SAFE Cities movement gathers momentum

Wednesday June 22, 2022

Eight policies passed, or in development, in the last four months including in California, the first in New York, and the first in Canada; SAFE Cities and partners to host live online joint policy announcement event on June 22 that honors local leadership

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. – Since Petaluma, California became the first city in the US to prohibit new gas stations last year, a wave of local governments – including car-centric Los Angeles – is taking similar steps to protect local health and safety, public dollars, and global climate. Just as the passage of a building electrification policy in Berkeley ushered in what is now a widespread movement of cities doing the same, policies prohibiting new gas stations are popping up across North America. 

Notable recent policies include:

  • Rohnert Park, Calif. and Sebastopol, Calif. passed policies
  • Los Angeles, Calif.; Windsor, Calif.; Cotati, Calif.; Santa Rosa, Calif.; Bethlehem, New York; and Comox Valley Regional District, British Columbia have policies in development

As detailed in the new report from SAFE Cities at Stand.earth and partners CONGAS, Coltura, and Elected Officials to Protect America, gas stations pose numerous health, environmental, equity, and financial risks to communities. New stations compound these risks, and given the rapid growth in vehicle electrification and developments, like the Biden Administration’s announcement this month of its plan for making EV charging accessible across the US, the risks can no longer be justified. To honor the local leadership and momentum in the movement to prohibit new gas stations, the partners are hosting a live online event Wednesday June 22, 2022 at 9:30 am PT/ 12:30 pm EST.  To join, please register here.

QUOTE SHEET

Council Member D’Lynda Fischer of Petaluma, Calif., who championed the first prohibition on new gas stations, said: “We are not surprised that many cities are following our lead to prohibit the development of new gas stations. We have an obligation to stop fossil fuel expansion and new gas stations lock communities into many kinds of risks. This is one of many steps Petaluma is taking. We are proud to be part of this growing movement to stop fossil fuel expansion and phase out fossil fuels.”

Councilmember Paul Koretz of Los Angeles, Calif., who authored the developing policy, said  “We are ending oil drilling in Los Angeles. We are moving to all-electric new construction. And we are building toward fossil fuel free transportation. Our great and influential city, which grew up around the automobile, is the perfect place to figure out how to move off the gas-powered car.”

Rohnert Park, Calif., passed its policy in March, part of the recent wave of new policies. Mayor Jackie Elward, who championed the policy, said: “The need to prohibit new gas stations is so clear. Why would we want more fossil fuel pollution and risk costly clean up of more gas stations when we have enough, and when California won’t even have gas cars for sale by 2035? Last year Rohnert Park declared a climate emergency. This policy is also part of our work toward a future free of fossil fuels and all the harms that come with drilling for them and using them.”

Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Sebastopol, Windsor, Cotati, and Santa Rosa are all in Sonoma County, where the innovative Regional Climate Protection Authority voted to encourage all its member jurisdictions to pass ordinances to stop permitting new gas stations. “The regional approach has been powerful,” said Woody Hastings, co-coordinator of the Coalition Opposing New Gas Stations (CONGAS) who has supported many of the policies. “These cities are working together to protect their residents, the region, and the planet from the harms new gas stations would bring.”

The movement is growing outside California as well. Bethlehem, New York’s Town Board Member Maureen Cunningham, who has been advocating for a prohibition of new or expanded fossil fuel stations in her town’s new Comprehensive Plan along with other community advocates, in addition to helping advance other electrification and sustainability measures, said: “Moving forward, we are working to ensure that our town makes a clear break from a reliance on fossil fuels. Bethlehem will be home to the first manufacturing site in the nation for offshore wind towers. We know that clean, renewable energy is the right move for our local economy, our long-term sustainability, and the future of our planet. Prohibiting new gas stations is one of many forward-thinking solutions we as a community need to act on now.”

The first policy in Canada is in development. Daniel Arbour, Director with the Comox Valley Regional District in British Columbia who is proposing amendments for the 2023 general zoning bylaw update, said: “We can not meet our climate goals unless we stop expanding fossil fuel infrastructure. The policy we are working on would make it extremely difficult to build new petroleum fuels gas stations in our area. The time has come to address overly permissive zoning bylaws across North America to reflect the low carbon future we want.”

Taking action to move off fossil fuels toward a renewable future is not new for many of these communities. Sebastopol, for example, passed the first ordinance in the nation mandating solar photovoltaics on both new and remodeled residential and commercial buildings and passed a Climate Emergency Declaration that included a commitment to more local actions. Sebastopol, Calif. Mayor Patrick Slayter, who authored the mandatory solar ordinance and championed the policy prohibiting new gas stations which passed in April, said, "Prohibiting new petroleum fueling stations was a logical and important next step for us, given Sebastopol's history of environmental protection and current community priorities."

Mayor Chris Rogers of Santa Rosa, Calif. where the policy to prohibit new gas stations is in development, said, “Santa Rosa needs to invest in the infrastructure of the future and there is no credible plan for addressing climate change that doesn’t significantly reduce and eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels. Building new gas stations now means we anticipate needing more pumps for the next thirty years -- and if that’s the case, then we have utterly failed our children and future generations.”

Mayor Sam Salmon of Windsor, Calif. where the policy is also in development, said, “There is no shortage of gas stations in Windsor. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and taking action to address climate change are Windsor’s goal and challenge. Prohibiting new gas stations is but one more step in responding to our climate crisis.”

This policy area has become a higher priority as climate change impacts hit communities harder and more frequently. Mayor Mark Landman of Cotati, Calif., where the policy is also in development, said, “Those of us who grew up in Cotati miss the fog and rain that were a part of this place, and we all need to be aware that we now have a year-long wildfire season. We haven’t seen the worst of it and we have an obligation to lessen those impacts as much as we can. All that makes prohibiting new gas stations an easy choice.”

Anne Pernick, SAFE Cities Senior Advisor said: “These cities are working for a secure future where their neighbors and people around the world, especially those most vulnerable, are safe from the impacts of fossil fuels and climate change. SAFE Cities is honored to support their leadership.”

The number of SAFE Cities policies has grown by 68% in the last year and now nearly 67 million people live in a community that has passed at least one SAFE Cities policy or commitment. Learn more about the SAFE Cities Campaign at stand.earth/safe

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Contact: Sohini Baliga, +1-415-532-3808, safemedia@stand.earth