No-new-gas-station activists accelerate efforts in Napa, Sonoma counties
In Greta Thunberg style, two Napa County teenagers are leading a charge against climate change by pushing for a ban on new gas stations in their back yards.
The efforts by seniors Emily Bit of American Canyon High School and Alisa Karesh of Napa High School make up just a part of a regional trend by local activists targeting gas station development in the North Bay.
Led by Petaluma’s ordinance passed last March, another Sonoma County city, Sebastopol, is due to take up the issue during its Jan. 25 meeting.
Not everyone has totally embraced the idea of all-out bans on new stations, including gas station developers, their advocates and even an academic economist. But all agree halting the devastating effects of greenhouse gas emissions is a noble cause, including the one waged by the teens’ group, Napa Schools for Climate Action.
Driven to action when two friends who lost homes in the 2018 Camp Fire in Butte County, Bit, a political science major, has met with local elected officials and U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena. To her and other coalition members, the implosion of greenhouse gases sparked by fossil fuels burned from combustible engines must be curtailed or humans will continue to be deal with catastrophic fires and other mind-boggling environmental issues.
“I’ve seen the detrimental effect on my community,” the teen said of the Napa Valley’s brush with wildfires over the last few years.
Bit and other coalition members such as teachers and parents took their plea for action to the Napa City Council, which is looking to its local climate committee to address the issue.
“It has been brought up, and we expect to have more conversations about it if our climate action committee takes it up,” Napa City Manager Steve Potter told the Business Journal.
Napa neighbor American Canyon had already placed a temporary moratorium on new gas stations into 2022, while Calistoga put its ban into place in December.
Climate activists and citizens concerned about greenhouse emissions, water quality and traffic impacts have taken their cause across Sonoma County as well.
As co-coordinator for the local Coalition Opposing New Gas Stations, Woody Hastings has engaged in conversations with city officials throughout the county including Windsor, Santa Rosa, Healdsburg, Cotati and Rohnert Park.
The coalition consists of Sebastopol Climate Action;-Sierra Club Redwood Chapter; Preserve Rural Sonoma County; Sonoma County Water Coalition; Wine Water Watch; Sonoma County Climate Activist Network; Sonoma County Transportation and Land-use Coalition; Sebastopol Water Information Group; and No Gas Here.
Hastings, who also separately represents Santa Rosa’s Climate Center as the energy program manager, calls the plucking away at cities considering the bans as “a national movement” that’s gaining ground.
After all, as the old saying goes, “Think globally, act locally” stands between change and inaction.
“Yes, this is the beginning of a movement. There’s lots of interest in this, and the North Bay is a hot bed for this,” he said. “There’s no way in this time we can approve new gas stations.”
The climate activist said there is a place for mini, two-pump gas stations in remote locations such as the tiny villages along the Pacific Coast.
Hastings pointed to flat gas sales, an increase in electric vehicle purchases and overwhelming evidence that people are starting to understand the planet is witnessing the devastating effects of a warming from the steady burn of fossil fuels over time.
The efforts span the state.
In 2020, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order to phase out gas-powered vehicles in 13 years.
About a week ago, the state released a budget earmarking $22 billion toward climate change measures.
“We’re going to need an ‘all-hands-on-deck approach to improve this and getting our economy off oil,” the governor’s Senior Climate Adviser Lauren Sanchez said during a virtual press conference upon release of the budget. With the zero-emissions goal by 2035, Sanchez signaled the cash infusion represents “doubling down on it in this budget.”
In the Legislature, Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, has sent Assembly Bill 1218 requiring manufacturers to sell only new zero-emission passenger vehicles and light duty trucks in the state by 2035. The bill passed in the Appropriations Committee and has headed to the Assembly for a floor vote.
It’s unclear whether state lawmakers have entertained the thought of a statewide gas station ban, as McCarty’s press aide, Simone Braithwaite, told the Business Journal she hadn’t heard of a bill addressing that particular part of the climate change fight.