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City's Move on Gas Stations May Be a Forerunner

Petaluma, Calif., bans the construction of new stations
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 2, 2021 8:37 AM CST
Updated Mar 6, 2021 11:04 AM CST

(Newser) – The city of Petaluma, Calif., has just done something no other city in the US has done, reports Gizmodo—it banned the construction of new gas stations. And coverage of the decision suggests Petaluma won't be alone for long as a shift continues toward electric cars. Coverage:

  • The city council unanimously approved the prohibition on new stations last week, reports the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, though it doesn't become official until a second reading on Monday. The city of 60,000 already has 16 gas stations over its 15 square miles, meaning residents don't have to drive more than five minutes or so to find a pump.
  • The measure prohibits existing stations from adding new pumps, but it also makes it easier for them to add electric charging stations or, further down the road, hydrogen fuel cell stations. “The goal here is to move away from fossil fuels, and to make it as easy as possible to do that,” says councilor D’Lynda Fischer. The city has an ambitious plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2030.

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  • It's a safe bet that more such ordinances will emerge across the US, particularly in liberal towns, writes Jennifer A. Kingson at Axios. "Grassroots groups are popping up with the mission of spreading this type of ban and forcing pollution cleanups at existing gas stations," she writes. The movement is currently small, but it appears to be spreading fast.
  • The Petaluma decision is "a really important sign of things to come where, because we haven’t seen sufficient action at a state or federal level, cities have an opportunity to do the right thing and make sure we are planning a transition from a carbon economy to a clean energy economy,” says Matt Krogh of the environmental nonprofit Stand.earth.
  • Fast Company notes that the number of gas stations in the US is on the decline, but that's in part because big chains such as Costco and Sam's Club have been adding stations to existing stores. That can cause problems when such businesses close. The EPA estimates that half of the nation's 450,000 "brownfield" sites—land no longer in use and possibly contaminated—are abandoned gas stations. Leaking underground tanks can cause big problems with soil and groundwater.
  • In a post at the Drive, Stef Schrader notes that the auto industry's shift toward electric vehicles will accelerate this trend. "If fewer cars on the road run on gas, there won't be as much demand for gas pumps, which would lead to fewer of them staying in business regardless of any municipal bans."
  • On Tuesday, Volvo became the latest automaker to join the bandwagon. The company says its entire car lineup will be all-electric by 2030, reports Reuters. Automakers including GM and Jaguar also recently announced similar goals, while Ford plans to be all-electric in Europe by 2030.
(Read more gas stations stories.)

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