November 20, 2014 / 12:21 AM / 6 years ago

Two California cities weigh putting climate-change warning on gas pumps

(Reuters) - Officials in San Francisco and Berkeley are considering what they say would be a first-in-the-nation move to require warnings about climate change to be placed at gas pumps at filling stations in the two California cities.

In famously liberal Berkeley, the City Council voted on Tuesday to draft an ordinance that would require labels warning consumers that burning fossil fuels contributes to climate change, city spokesman Matthai Chakko said on Wednesday..

Nearby San Francisco was also considering a proposal to require labels, and the city’s Board of Supervisors was due to vote on a proposed ordinance early next year despite opposition from the petroleum industry.

“Every day, people can make choices,” said San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos, who sponsored a proposed city ordinance that was introduced a few weeks ago. “I think it’s important that there are reminders about the choices people can make. Driving vehicles that use fossil fuels increases the carbon output and contributes to climate change.” 

Avalos said he hoped to work with Berkeley officials to come up with common language and that he hoped the climate-change warning labels would spread beyond the Bay Area. After the city manager prepares Berkeley’s ordinance, it will be sent to a City Council committee before going to a full vote.

“Just like we have on all packs of cigarettes, smoking cigarettes has been known by the surgeon general to cause cancer. We would love to see this idea spread all over the country,” Avalos said.

The Western States Petroleum Association, which opposes the labels, said in a letter to the Berkeley City Council that such an ordinance “would be an illegal attempt to require compelled speech” in violation of constitutional protections.

“This City Council may not legally force Berkeley gasoline service station owners to disseminate its political speech and policy preferences, and to do so would violate the law and Berkeley’s own long tradition of freedom of speech,” the letter read. 

San Francisco is still working on the language of what a label sticker, which would be placed on the gas pump hose or nozzle, would say. A public hearing on the issue will be held next week.

Avalos said it would include language regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s determination that burning gas releases carbon dioxide into the air, contributing to climate change. 

Reporting by Shelby Sebens in Portland, Ore.; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Peter Cooney

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