California City Says No More New Gas Stations

Petaluma also will bar current fuel retailers from adding more pumps, but EV chargers are OK.

March 02, 2021

PETALUMA, Calif.—The city of Petaluma, California, voted to ban new gasoline stations and additional fuel pumps within city limits, extending an existing two-year moratorium, the Press Democrat reports. The city council also streamlined the process for existing gas stations who want to add electric vehicle charging stations plus hydrogen fuel cell stations to support alternative fueling.

The less-than-15-square-mile city has 16 gas stations currently.

“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 [EV] chargers and create another source of fueling people can use.”

Opponents of the policy have concerns that banning new businesses that sell one type of energy (gasoline) does nothing to make another type of energy (electricity) easier to sell. Instead, it simply makes it impossible to compete with existing businesses. The result, they argue, will be higher prices and less innovation and services as existing businesses will not need to compete on any of their offerings.

“This competition is the very crux for many stations to invest in new fueling options, such as electric vehicle charging and hydrogen fueling stations,” the California Fuels and Convenience Alliance (CFCA) said. “The gas station industry has spent over 100 years identifying the most efficient ways to fuel communities. Even under the argument that the fossil fuel industry is waning, existing gas stations are the best positioned to transition to new fueling infrastructure,” the association said.

CFCA pointed out that California “needs to build 60,000 chargers by 2025 to hit their goals—building urban and suburban charger density would be best accomplished by partnering with the existing service providers, the billions of dollars of existing infrastructure and the century of experience in safely providing fuel to consumers.”

Last fall, the Governor of California announced an intention to ban sales of new gasoline-powered vehicles starting in 2035. In Petaluma, the fight to halt new gas stations started two years ago when a local Safeway wanted to turn a corner of its shopper center into a gas station.

The planned Safeway gas station at McDowell Boulevard and Maria Drive won’t be affected by the ban.

“This ban probably would have happened at some point anyway, but the Safeway gas station definitely brought the issue to the front burner,” said Councilor Mike Healy. “At this point with Safeway approved, I think it probably is not going to mean that less gas will be sold in town,” Healy said. “I think what we’re really relying on is people switching to electric and more fuel efficient vehicles moving forward."

CFCA calls the trend to ban new gas stations in California alarming and notes that “a vast majority of Californians continue to drive gas-powered cars. These Californians still require fueling sites within reasonable proximity of their homes or places of employment. This direction will not drive consumers to replace their vehicles, but will instead force them to travel greater distances out of the way to acquire the fuel they need to make their commutes and get their kids to school,” the association said.

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