LA City Councilmembers Want to Ban New Gas Stations, Here’s Why It’s Okay

Frederic J. Brown / Getty Images (Getty Images) Featured Image: Frederic J. Brown (Getty Images)

Gas stations have been singled out by city council members as a target for the city’s 2035 plan to ban the sale of gas-powered cars. They announced Thursday that they are drafting a proposal to stop new stations from being built, according to an announcement from environmental advocacy nonprofit Stand.

There is no evidence that this is even close to happening, but it is worth unpacking nonetheless. Petaluma was the first California city to pass such a law last year, so Los Angeles would not be the first to follow suit. A number of other California cities, New York’s Bethlehem, and British Columbia’s Comox Valley Regional District are reportedly considering similar measures. However, Los Angeles is a much bigger deal.

The policy’s author, Councilman Paul Koretz, was quoted in a press release as saying the following:

Los Angeles will no longer be drilled for oil. All new construction will be powered by electricity from now on. And we’re moving toward a future where we don’t use any fossil fuels. With its long history of automobile reliance, our storied metropolis is ideally situated to pioneer new modes of transportation independent of the internal combustion engine.

The number of gas stations in Los Angeles County alone is expected to reach more than 600 by the year 2020, which may seem excessively early at first glance. While gas stations have steadily decreased in number over the past two decades, only large corporations and convenience stores with more than 200 locations are expanding.

Alternatively, there doesn’t appear to be a construction boom that this ban would otherwise disrupt. Although charging stations won’t replace fueling stations in every situation, they don’t have to for now because the market is already moving in that direction.

Grist, a climate-focused news magazine, reported on today’s developments, laying out the reasons why council members want to codify a new station ban now:

They argue that climate change-fueled wildfires, deadly heat waves and heavy flooding have made it clear that it’s time to stop building more fossil fuel infrastructure in the United States. Benzene, a known carcinogen, is also released into the air, water, and soil by gas stations, causing long-term health effects. An estimated 450,000 contaminated brownfield sites in the United States are made up of shuttered gas stations, the EPA estimates.

Discouragement of climate-damaging infrastructure that will be obsolete in 15 years might seem like a good idea, but the country already has too many gas stations and isn’t adding any more, so the ban would have little impact. However, it would be an eye-catching headline!