.Sonoma County bans new retail gas stations

Sonoma County is taking another step towards a gas-free future.

On March 14, the county’s board of supervisors approved a ban on new retail gas stations in the unincorporated county as California endeavors to end the sale of gas-powered cars in 2035. Sonoma County’s ordinance will go into effect on April 13.

“Preventing new gas stations in the unincorporated county is just one of the tools we need to employ to reach our climate goals. Gas stations can be toxic sites, with run-off pollution and soil contamination, and we need to shift away from fossil fuels if we’re going to make a dent in climate change,” board chair Chris Coursey said in a statement following the vote.

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According to a county staff report, there were over 158 fuel stations in Sonoma County in 2016, 46 of which are in the unincorporated county.

Sonoma County has set a goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2030. Doing so will require major changes in transportation. In 2018, about 60% of the county’s greenhouse gas emissions came from transportation. By 2021, there were over 10,000 registered electric vehicles in the county.

The legislation has been pushed by a local group named Coalition Opposing New Gas Stations (CONGAS). In a statement, Jenny Blaker, the group’s co-coordinator, highlighted the equity considerations at play.

“In addition to the climate crisis and local impacts, CONGAS sees this as an environmental justice issue. In every drop of gasoline we pump there is a wake of destruction—from the drilling to the pumping to the transportation by rail, trucks, and pipelines to processing facilities and refineries—almost always disproportionately impacting indigenous, low income, and communities of color,” Blaker said.

Woody Hastings, the group’s other co-coordinator, said that the outright bans on new gas stations will save planning staff from spending time considering applications for new gas stations.

“Taking this action frees up staff time to work on other climate-smart measures in the county, such as efforts to improve walking and biking amenities, expand clean-emission public transit, and develop electric vehicle charging infrastructure,” Hastings said.

Sonoma County is the first county in the country to ban new gas stations, continuing local cities’ leadership on the issue. In 2021, Petaluma became the first jurisdiction in the country to ban the construction of new gas stations. Cotati, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa, Sebastopol and Windsor followed soon after.

Sonoma County’s ban exempts the construction of private fuel stations used for agricultural and fleet use.

“This is one small step in the right direction to meaningfully address the climate challenge, and with over 150 gas stations operating in Sonoma County, one that I don’t see as controversial,” Coursey stated.

Will Carruthershttp://www.wrcarruthers.com
Will Carruthers was the news editor of the Pacific Sun and North Bay Bohemian. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @Carruthers_W.

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