Los Angeles may ban new gas stations to help combat climate emergency

Los Angeles could become the largest city to prohibit the construction of new gas stations, joining a movement that seeks to limit fossil fuels at the local level as part of efforts to combat the climate crisis.

Officials in America’s second largest city, along with Bethlehem, New York, and Comox valley regional district, British Columbia, said on Wednesday morning that they were working on policies to stop the development of new fossil fuel infrastructure.

“We are ending oil drilling in Los Angeles. We are moving to all-electric new construction. And we are building toward fossil fuel-free transportation,” said Paul Koretz, the LA council member who is working on the policy. “Our great and influential city, which grew up around the automobile, is the perfect place to figure out how to move off the gas-powered car.”

LA’s developing policy is a significant shift for the car-reliant metro area, which has been ranked as one of the worst cities for US commuters. If successful, Los Angeles would be the largest city to pass such a measure. Andy Shrader, a staff member in Koretz’s office, said the council member hopes to see the policy move ahead by the end of the year.

“Our daily bad habits are destroying the natural systems we depend on to exist. It’s really up to cities to turn around climate change,” Shrader said. “If you have lung cancer you stop smoking. If your planet is on fire, you stop throwing gasoline on it.”

LA’s proposal was inspired by the city of Petaluma, California, which last year became the first in the world to ban new gas stations. The Bay Area city council voted unanimously in support of the measure, citing Petaluma’s commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

“We need to do our part to help mitigate and adapt to our changing weather patterns that exist because of all the carbon we put in the atmosphere,” D’lynda Fischer, a Petaluma city council member, said at the time.

Local action, Fischer said, is crucial to combatting the climate emergency. “To tackle this crisis is gonna happen at the local level and it is gonna happen in our communities,” she said at a news conference on Wednesday.

The movement has further grown since then, with nearby towns passing similar measures, and other towns developing their own policies seeking to address the climate emergency and phase out fossil fuels with moratoriums and bans on new fossil fuel infrastructure and proposals that promote electric transportation and buildings. The campaign, known as the Safe Cities movement, is backed by the environmental non-profit Stand.earth, which supports community efforts to limit fossil fuels.

Gas stations pose health and environmental risks to communities, according to a new report from Safe Cities. Even small spills over time can significantly pollute soil and water and former gas stations make up a large portion of brownfield sites, the report states.

“The need to prohibit new gas stations is so clear. Why would we want more fossil fuel pollution and risk costly clean-up of more gas stations when we have enough, and when California won’t even have gas cars for sale by 2035?” said Jackie Elward, the mayor of Rohnert Park.

Gas prices in California are at record highs with the average Golden State driver paying $6.38 a gallon, according to AAA. State lawmakers have announced plans to investigate why the state has the highest fuel prices and whether oil companies are taking advantage of consumers. Banning gas stations won’t affect fuel prices, said Sohini Baliga with Stand.earth.

“The number of gas stations doesn’t make a difference to the cost of a gallon. We already have more than enough gas stations to serve our communities,” she said. “Prohibiting construction of new gas stations won’t do anything to impact gas prices today. But the cost of new gas stations as future stranded assets is a bill that definitely ends up being paid by public dollars.”