Petaluma, CA Becomes First City to Ban New Gas Stations and Pumps

Petaluma River. Image: Kirk K./Flickr

by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer

The city of Petaluma, California is the first American city to ban new gas stations and pumps in an effort to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. 

The city unanimously passed a bill extending a two-year moratorium indefinitely, and while the town’s 16 gas stations will still be permitted to operate, advocates hope that the ban will spark the installation of EV charging stations and plug-in points at existing gas stations. Much like the recent statewide ban of new on sales of new gas and diesel vehicles by 2035, and many regional bans of natural gas hookups in new buildings, bans like the one in Petaluma could begin cropping up across the nation as more cities invest in an electric future.

Why This Matters: The U.S. auto industry is changing, and to support the future of EVs, we need to start building infrastructure to support them, now. 

The Biden administration knows this and recently held a meeting with EV infrastructure companies to discuss the best course of action. The administration hopes to create jobs and bolster local economies with new EV infrastructure projects, but the clock is ticking. 

Companies like Volvo, Ford (in its European markets, at least), and GM, have pledged to phase out gas-powered cars within the next 15 years, setting the timeline for an infrastructure revolution. And unlike gas infrastructure, which has evolved over a century, EV infrastructure must become just as common and convenient in just a few decades. The Petaluma case, however, offers an innovative solution, encouraging gas stations to self-improve, and recycling the network of local gas stations as opposed to rebuilding them.

 

Good Company: “This is a massive step forward in the fight to protect communities and the climate from fossil fuels,” tweeted environmental nonprofit Stand.earth. This sentiment has been echoed across many California towns like Petaluma, which have implemented a series of limits and bans on different GHG releasing practices.

  • Last month, Santa Monica announced a one-square-mile, zero-emissions delivery zone, a pilot program to evaluate how reducing last-mile delivery emissions could be expanded to larger supply chains.
  • In November 2020, San Francisco became one of the largest cities to ban natural gas hookups in all new buildings.

It’s not just California getting in on the fun. In December 2020, Cambridge, MA introduced warning stickers on all fuel pumps that are reminiscent of the warnings on cigarette packaging. The labels read, “Burning Gasoline, Diesel and Ethanol has major consequences on human health and on the environment including contributing to climate change.”

Critical Response: Although no strong opposition to the Petaluma ban has cropped up (yet), other cities have faced upward battles when trying to use bans to shift away from fossil fuels. In response to city-level bans on new natural gas hookups, Republican-led state legislatures across the nation, including in Arizona, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Louisiana, passed laws banning local electrification measures and natural gas bans.

Banning new gas pumps and encouraging the installation of EV charging points may not seem all that revolutionary, but much like natural gas bans, it prevents fossil-fuel industry profits at the point of sale. For now, Petaluma is celebrating a win for a clean-energy future, but if history repeats itself, cities considering similar bans shouldn’t expect a smooth ride.

 

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