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Sonoma County halts new retail gas station construction to combat climate change

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance on Tuesday, banning the construction of new retail gas stations in unincorporated areas of the county. The ordinance will take effect on Apr. 13.

This decision is in line with the Regional Climate Protection Agency's Sonoma Climate Mobilization Strategy, the county's Five-Year Strategic Plan, the General Plan, and the climate goals established in the 2018 Climate Resolution. The ban also supports the California Air Resources Board's Advanced Clean Cars II regulation, which requires all new passenger cars sold in California to be zero-emission vehicles by 2035.

"Blocking new gas stations in unincorporated areas is just one measure we must take to reach our climate goals," said Supervisor Chris Coursey, chair of the Board of Supervisors. "Gas stations can be environmentally harmful, causing run-off pollution and soil contamination. We must transition away from fossil fuels to combat climate change."

The Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Agency Board adopted the Sonoma Climate Mobilization Strategy in March 2021. This plan sets a goal of carbon neutrality by 2030 and outlines numerous strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration throughout the county.

Transportation accounted for around 60% of Sonoma County's greenhouse gas emissions in 2018. To achieve carbon neutrality by 2030, residents must reduce their use of gas-powered vehicles by increasing transit ridership, biking, and walking. They must also decrease fossil fuel consumption by replacing gas-powered vehicles with electric ones.

As of 2016, there were approximately 158 gas stations in both unincorporated and incorporated areas of Sonoma County, mainly located along major transportation routes. The unincorporated areas contain around 46 fuel stations, including seven in the Coastal Zone. The ordinance exempts non-retail gas stations for fleet and agricultural uses, except for the rental vehicle fleet at Sonoma County Airport.

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