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Cities are starting to ban gas stations

Petaluma, California, has voted to outlaw new gas stations, the first of what climate activists hope will be numerous cities and counties to do so.

Why it matters: Expect more such ordinances, particularly in liberal towns. Grassroots groups are popping up with the mission of spreading this type of ban and forcing pollution cleanups at existing gas stations.

  • The movement aims to accelerate the shift to electric vehicles.
  • "This is not a ban on the existing gas stations, which are providing all the gas currently needed," Matt Krogh, U.S. oil and gas campaign director for the environmental group, tells Axios.
  • "The problem with allowing new gas stations is we don't really need them and they’re putting existing gas stations out of business."

Driving the news: In Petaluma — where neighborhood opposition to a new Safeway gas station prompted years of litigation — the council voted unanimously last week to move forward with a permanent ban on new stations; a final vote will happen Monday.

  • Existing stations won't be allowed to add new gas pumps, though they're encouraged to build electric charging bays.
  • "The city of roughly 60,000 people is host to 16 operational gas stations, and city staff concluded there are multiple stations located within a 5-minute drive of every planned or existing residence within city limits," per the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.
  • The city councilor who introduced the measure, D’Lynda Fischer, is quoted as saying: “The goal here is to move away from fossil fuels and to make it as easy as possible to do that.”

Between the lines: The Petaluma effort had the support of, which runs a campaign called SAFE Cities (an acronym for "stand against fossil fuel expansion").

  • The group says 30 cities and counties have passed policies in keeping with their agenda, but none has gone as far as Petaluma.
  • "It's actually political bravery to be the very first," says Krogh, the SAFE Cities director.
  • Over time, as gas stations close in Petaluma, they'll be required to clean up whatever toxins are on the property, which Krogh applauds: "We have a lot of unfunded cleanup needs associated with fossil fuels sort of writ large across the country."

The big picture: The Petaluma effort inspired groups like the Coalition Opposing New Gas Stations — or CONGAS — which seeks to ban gas stations in Sonoma County, California.

  • A Seattle-based group called Coltura, which aims to phase out gasoline altogether, is working on the issue locally and nationally.
  • "Just as the no-smoking movement highlighted the dangers of secondhand smoke, the beyond-gasoline movement raises awareness of the health, climate and equity impacts of gasoline and diesel use," Coltura says on its website.

What they're saying: "In the 2020s, this is not the time to be expanding fossil fuel infrastructure," Woody Hastings, co-coordinator of CONGAS, tells Axios.

  • Gas stations are "already ubiquitous — there's no shortage."
  • He says his group has succeeded in blocking three applications to build new stations in Sonoma.
  • "A lot of the stuff that happens here can be framed in the climate crisis frame, and that does motivate people here," Hastings said.

The bottom line: The movement is still tiny — smaller than the movement to ban natural gas hookups in new construction — but seems to be spreading quickly.

  • "Ideas like this can spread rapidly, particularly in California," says Krogh.

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