Protection from fossil fuel infrastructure

Our climate and our communities can't afford any new fossil fuel infrastructure. Updates to local laws can stop everything from refineries to gas stations right in their tracks.

Fighting fossil fuel threats one at a time can feel like playing the world’s most exhausting and unfun game of whack-a-mole. One with no end in sight. If you’re in a community on the frontline of the fossil fuel industry you already know this well – no sooner have you defeated a massive coal terminal proposal when a tar sands pipeline pops up. Or you’re already fighting a refinery expansion  when industry comes with brand new plans to build a giant, explosive LNG facility. The SAFE Cities movement wants to end all that by blocking fossil fuel infrastructure projects before they’re even proposed – it’s time to stop playing defense, and go on the offensive.

Our secret weapon? Zoning laws. Local governments oftentimes have a significant amount of authority when it comes to deciding what can – or can’t – be built within their jurisdiction. Tweaks to these laws can permanently protect communities from new fossil fuel threats and allow people to focus on supporting a just transition instead of constantly fighting dangerous projects.

Examples of protection policies

An aerial shot of the coast and pier off of Cherry Point

Whatcom County, Washington

Local community members, working alongside RE Sources and, convinced leaders in the Whatcom County government to enact a temporary moratorium on unrefined fossil fuel infrastructure in 2016. Whatcom County Council continued extending the moratorium until July of 2021, when the final amendment was unanimously passed and Whatcom County became the first place in the US to use land-use code amendments to permanently prohibit new refineries, fossil fuel transshipment facilities, new piers, and wharfs or coal facilities

black oil trains lined up on tracks

Baltimore, Maryland

To protect their city from oil trains, in March of 2018 Baltimore successfully passed (14-1!) a Crude Oil Terminal Prohibition using zoning laws. To this day, the legislation still stands and local residents can rest easy knowing that their community won't become the home of more terminals housing 100-car long, explosive crude oil trains. But crude oil trains can still travel through the city en route to terminals elsewhere on the East Coast – including on tracks that have seen multiple derailments, collapses, and even fires in recent years. It's time for more cities to act against fossil fuel threats and protect each other from these dangers.

A gas station half submerged by water

Petaluma, California

In 2019, Petaluma passed a temporary ban on new gas stations and declared a climate emergency. In spring of 2020 the city extended the ban on new gas stations until March 2021, and in February of 2021, Petaluma passed the first gas station ban in the United States. Since then, a number of other municipalities (including Los Angeles, city of cars) have taken up similar ordinances.

The three categories of SAFE policies