Climate change is a major issue impacting policies at all levels, from global to local.
Those looking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other practices that damage the planet are employing numerous efforts to achieve these goals.
One noteworthy attempt to lessen greenhouse gas emissions is citizens starting to take matters into their own hands – not through sabotage or aggressive extrajudicial actions – but through concentrated governmental efforts to cut emissions off at the source: the gas itself.
Primarily, citizens are employing their local governments to put in place moratoriums as temporary holds on the development of new gas stations, or expansions of current ones.
Since 2019, a growing contingent of Californians, specifically those in Sonoma County, have pushed for moratoriums on new gas stations, and in some cases, for an outright ban on further gas station development. Their reasoning has to do with how gas stations can impact the surrounding environment.
California has been under siege from wildfires of growing intensity for years now. Many early gas station moratoriums were simply put in place while communities recovered from wildfire damages. Moratoriums also help those affected communities establish a wildfire prevention plan, implement zoning changes to discourage development in wildfire-prone areas, or to reconfigure taxing information for gas stations.
Some citizens have decided that temporary moratoriums weren’t enough to curb gas stations' contributions to land poisoning and greenhouse gas emissions. As of 2021, Petaluma, CA, became the first city in the nation to outright ban the further development of gas stations within their city limits.
One of the largest organizations leading the gas station ban charge is The Coalition Opposing New Gas Stations (CONGAS) has been relatively successful. Before the ban in Petaluma, they had successfully campaigned to stop the development of four gas stations in the area, with further legal challenges currently pending against gas stations in the near-by area.
CONGAS is joined by the Sonoma Group in their efforts to push against gas stations and instead push for a greater reliance on electric vehicles and renewable energy sources. Apparently, this push has been so successful that the county is having a hard time installing enough EV charging stations to fulfill the community’s demands!
There are also three other California cities - Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, and Cotati City - currently considering full-on bans of gas stations.
Other parts of the country have also addressed the issue of gas station moratoriums or bans in their own ways.
Lockwood, Illinois, for example, issued a general moratorium on the development of gas stations to, in their own words, “Determine the Proper Zoning Classification for Such Establishments.” The resolution passed in September, and extended the moratorium until October.
Three locations in New York - Montgomery, Poughkeepsie, and Lewisboro - have been exploring implementing moratoriums of their own since late 2020, with Lewisboro being the only one so far to follow through on it, as they did in September of this year. Unlike their Californian counterparts, though, the focus is not on renewable energy, but oil spillage and the tainting of drinking water.
Studies have shown that the average gas station spills more than 100 gallons of gasoline into the Earth yearly, which creates what experts have dubbed “brownfield sites.” These tainted areas of land are unfit for human residence, as the land itself becomes toxic and polluted. Most of the New York-based discussion revolves around saving the drinking water, as those areas rely heavily on groundwater wells for their drinking reserves.
Conversely, there are two places in the United States where the discussions about gas station bans and moratoriums are actually about banning the bans.
Both Texas and Florida have attempted to ban the banning of gas stations and the use of fossil fuels. Only Florida was successful in passing such legislation - HB 839 in April of this year.
Both states cite their desire to keep freedom of choice of energy source available to all residents, Texas specifically citing the recent electricity issues during the snow event of early 2021. As of writing, Texas has not banned gas stations bans, as their original provision was struck from the larger bill.
After all is said and done, though, this issue is still in its infancy. The first ban was passed just months ago, remember. However, as climate change becomes more and more serious, more states may consider similar bans to promote healthier energy choices, or to protect drinking water.
Gas station bans are clearly a hot-button issue, one which a few states are keen to fight against, leaving these discussions to fall to local governments.
Using Curate, you can stay ahead of the issue by tracking further discussions that attempt to answer the question - to ban, or not to ban?
While there isn’t an overwhelming surge of communities putting this on their agendas yet, issues like this do tend to spread and we would expect an increase in local governments considering the issue.
We caught the Petaluma changes as they were happening, so be assured you will be on top of developments occurring in your markets by monitoring these discussions with Curate.