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A California City Becomes the Nation’s First to Ban New Gas Stations

Sustainability News
by Tim Wenger Mar 12, 2021

This is The Climate Win, the most positive sustainability news around the world every week.

This week, Petaluma, CA, became the first municipality in the United States to ban the construction of new gas stations. The move is the latest push in the city’s goal to be carbon neutral by 2030, and the first announcement to catch national headlines since Petaluma’s City Council adopted a Climate Emergency Framework on January 11.

“We didn’t know we would be the first, and I keep saying that we didn’t do this to be the first,” said Petaluma Mayor Teresa Barret to the Petaluma Argus Courier. “We’re taking one step at a time here, because that’s how change is made. To me, it’s really important we’re not just ticking off boxes. If we want to be carbon neutral by 2030, we have to make these changes.”

Sixteen gas stations are currently active in the city of 60,000 residents. The framework is built around nine focal points designed to include advancing environmental justice for local Native peoples and other disadvantaged communities, providing necessary funding in order to act with “urgency and integrity,” and promoting equity across all of the city’s efforts.

“There is a moral imperative to prioritize climate-related actions and policies that promote social, racial, environmental, economic, disability, and public health justice in communities disparately impacted by climate change,” the report says.

Petaluma is located in Sonoma County, about 40 miles north of San Francisco. The region is known for its wineries and depends on visitors for over $2.2 billion of economic impact per year. The city hopes that preventing the added emissions from construction of new gas stations will ensure cleaner air for visitors and residents, and their action is likely to drive similar bans in other Sonoma County cities including Santa Rosa and Sebastopol.

The ban could also inspire cities across the US to consider similar measures. The group Stand.Earth, which advocates for environmental ethics in cities and corporations, notes that 30 cities around the country have passed or are discussing similar measures. These include Portland, OR, which is banning bulk-storage of fossil fuels, and Baltimore, MD, which in 2017 passed an ordinance to prevent the construction of new oil train facilities.

More climate wins this week

The Australian government released its first National Plastics Plan to address a growing plastic crisis in the country. The plan takes several firm actions like banning styrofoam containers, banning plastic on beaches, and phasing in plastic filters on washing machines to keep microplastics out of the waterways. It also will put an end to “biodegradable plastics,” a term loosely defined and barely regulated that has become a major source of greenwashing — that is, of hyping a level of sustainability that may be inaccurate.

FedEx said it would convert its entire fleet of delivery vehicles to EVs by 2040 as part of its broader plan to be carbon neutral by that year. To reach the goal, the company plans to invest $2 billion into vehicle electrification, sustainable energy, and carbon sequestration.

In honor of Women’s History Month, Matador is celebrating nine female environmental activists we can thank for protecting the planet. These women, including Wangari Maathai, Artemisa Xakriabá, and Autumn Peltier, have provided a much-needed voice to global and local environmental causes from advocating for clean water to fighting development on tribal and historic lands.

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