Berkeley abandons landmark natural gas ban after court battle


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The City of Berkeley, California, agreed to stop enforcing — and work to repeal — a landmark climate rule banning natural gas hookups in new construction, ending a nearly four-year court battle to beat the ban by industry groups.

The city said it would immediately stop enforcement of the Natural Gas Infrastructure Ordinance while repealing the policy through the regular legislative process, according to a legal settlement filed in federal court with the California Restaurant Association (CRA). The document estimates it will take several months to repeal the rule due to the city council’s procedures and calendar.

“We are encouraged that the City of Berkeley has agreed to take steps to repeal the ordinance, including immediate nonenforcement of the ban, to remain compliant with federal energy law,” CRA President and CEO Jot Condie said in a statement. “Every city and county in California that has passed a similar ordinance should follow their lead.

“Climate change must be addressed, but piecemeal policies at the local level like bans on natural gas piping in new buildings or all-electric ordinances, which are preempted by federal energy laws, are not the answer. Cities must comply with the law. Rather, the ban was passed with a disregard for available cooking technologies and ultimately for small businesses in the community that rely on gas-burning equipment for their cuisines.”

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The campus of U.C. Berkeley in Berkeley, California, is seen on June 22, 2023. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The settlement comes two months after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied Berkeley’s petition for rehearing en banc in the case. In April 2023, that same panel struck down the city’s gas ban ordinance, ruling that it violated the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975, which prevents local regulations from impacting the energy use of natural gas appliances.

Berkeley’s city council passed the law in July 2019, and it was set to go into effect in January 2020 — which would have made the city the first in the nation to approve such a measure. Berkeley Councilmember Kate Harrison, who authored the legislation, said at the time that the policy was part of the city’s effort to take “more drastic action” on climate change and to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

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But months after the ordinance was approved, the CRA filed a federal lawsuit challenging the city’s ability to pass a law banning new natural gas hookups. After a lower court ruled in favor of Berkeley in July 2021, the CRA appealed and received the favorable Ninth Circuit ruling in April.

“While the Ninth Circuit’s ruling renders this particular ordinance unenforceable, Berkeley will continue to be a leader in climate action,” Berkeley City Attorney Farimah Brown told Fox News Digital.

The settlement was hailed by the American Gas Association (AGA), which said the result would set a precedent for other cities pursuing similar gas bans. The AGA — in addition to the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute; Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association; National Association of Home Builders; and National Association of Manufacturers — was among the industry groups supporting the CRA lawsuit.

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Democrat-led cities nationwide have passed laws prohibiting new buildings from having natural gas hookups as part of a broad climate agenda. (Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

“This settlement has implications far beyond the City of Berkeley and is a significant step towards safeguarding energy choice for California consumers and helping our nation continue on a path to achieving our energy and environmental goals,” AGA President and CEO Karen Harbert said in a statement. “Natural gas has been one of the primary drivers for achieving environmental progress, and any ban on this foundation fuel will saddle consumers with significant costs for little environmental gain.”

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The U.S. Department of Justice; National League of Cities; California; Maryland; New York; Oregon; Washington, D.C.; and New York City all filed briefs supporting Berkeley.

The City of Berkeley didn’t respond to a request for comment.



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