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Windsor, Santa Rosa will consider banning new gas stations

Windsor and Santa Rosa may be the next two Sonoma County towns to ban construction of new gas stations, joining Petaluma, Sebastopol, Rohnert Park and, most recently, Cotati.

Elected councils in both communities are tentatively scheduled in August to consider draft ordinances prohibiting additional fueling stations in the future, acting upon the recommendations of their respective planning commissions.

The county already has 138 gas stations.

The proposals are part of a growing countywide movement to deter investment in petroleum-based infrastructure as internal-combustion engine vehicles are being phased out — particularly given the environmental risks that come with fuel storage tanks and what one proponent calls “the trail of devastation” that follows every drop of oil back to the point of extraction.

“First and foremost, we are concerned about the climate crisis,” said Woody Hastings, co-coordinator of the Sonoma County-based Coalition Opposing New Gas Stations.

“Here in the North Bay we have experienced successive years of unprecedented wildfire, clearly the consequence of the larger climate crisis,” he said in a news release. “Along with extended drought, extreme heat episodes, and other anomalous disruptions, it makes no sense to continue with the obsolete and dangerous 20th century energy systems.”

“We also recognize the one-hundred-plus year legacy of devastation and destruction to communities and the environment around the world due to oil extraction, transportation, storage, and refining,” Hastings said. “These almost always disproportionately impact lower income communities, communities of color, and Indigenous communities. The clean energy economy of the future offers an opportunity to end this long-standing racial, social and environmental injustice.”

The city of Petaluma pioneered the effort to stop gas station expansion, imposing an emergency moratorium in mid-2019 after Safeway proposed a 16-pump mega-station near a school on the east side of town.

In a move that drew international attention, the city passed a permanent ban March 1, 2021, becoming the first in the nation to do so.

By then, the coalition had formed in response to proposed stations on relatively rural stretches of highways 12 and 116.

The Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority voted unanimously last year to recommend all communities adopt new gas station bans.

Elected officials in Sebastopol did so April 5. In Rohnert Park, the council approved an ordinance March 22.

“This is one small step in abiding by the climate emergency resolution that we adopted last year,” Rohnert Park Mayor Jackie Elward said at the time. “We have enough gas stations, and we need to work toward a future free of fossil fuels and all the harms that come with drilling for them and using them.”

The Cotati City Council voted in favor of a ban June 28.

The Windsor Town Council is tentatively scheduled to hold a hearing on its draft ordinance Aug. 17, while Santa Rosa council members will take up theirs Aug. 23.

“We need to be investing in the infrastructure of the future,” Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Rogers, chairman of the City Council’s climate action subcommittee, said via text Tuesday. “If we are still relying on gas stations 20 years from now, we will have failed to recognize the urgency of our changing climate.”

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

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