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article imagePetaluma, California moves to ban new gas stations

By Karen Graham     Mar 2, 2021 in Environment
The city of Petaluma, Calif., has just done something no other city in the U.S. has done —it banned the construction of new gas stations. And with automakers shifting to EVs, we may be seeing the start of a new trend.
On Monday evening, the Petaluma City Council voted unanimously to ban the construction of new gas stations, cementing a nearly two-year moratorium as leaders accelerate ambitious climate action goals, reports the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.
The ban also takes into account a ban on adding any new gas pumps to existing stations. The council must approve the ban during a second reading before it takes effect.
As part of the city's year-long process to set up an ambitious zero-emission-by-2030 timeline, the City Council is also streamlining the process for installing electric vehicle charging stations and potential hydrogen fuel cell stations. The move is in conjunction with the state's zero-emission infrastructure targets.
“The goal here is to move away from fossil fuels, and to make it as easy as possible to do that,” Councilor D’Lynda Fischer said. “Right now, we have existing fossil fuel stations, and what we want them to do is add (electric vehicle) chargers and create another source of fueling people can use.”
Petaluma is a city of 60,000 people and has 16 gas stations within its 15 square miles (39 square kilometers) area. For the majority of drivers, a gas station is only five minutes away.
Jennifer A. Kingson at Axios says this may be the start of a new movement across the country. "Grassroots groups are popping up with the mission of spreading this type of ban and forcing pollution cleanups at existing gas stations," she writes.
If the Coalition Opposing New Gas Stations (or CONGAS for short) has its way, Petaluma won't be the last city to ban gas stations. The group has spent the past two years pushing for a ban on new gas stations applying to the entirety of Sonoma County, which includes Petaluma and eight other cities.
An overall decline in gas stations in the U.S.
IBISWorld published a report on the Gas Stations industry on Monday. And the retail gas station has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and falling oil prices over the past year. An added issue is the addition of gas pumps at locations such as Sam's Club, Costco, and other big-box retailers.
People wait to shop at a Costco store as they look to purchase essentials on February 20  2021 in Au...
People wait to shop at a Costco store as they look to purchase essentials on February 20, 2021 in Austin, Texas
JOE RAEDLE, GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP
Looking at industry growth between 2021 -2026, IBISWorld writes that "operators will likely experience more competition from retail sites in the Gas Stations with Convenience Stores industry (IBISWorld report XXXX), while demand for gasoline will likely decline due to the growing popularity of fuel-efficient and electric vehicles.
Another issue that is not publicized very much is empty sites that used to have gas stations on them. 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."
More about gas stations, Petaluma California, Fossil fuels, electric vehicles, Climate change
 
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