Berkeley’s First-in-Nation Natural Gas Ban Overthrown by Court Ruling

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Berkeley does not have the power to mandate electric hookups in new development because a federal rule preempts the local regulation.

2 minute read

April 18, 2023, 11:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Natural gas stove with blue flame

Ivan Radic / Gas stove with flame

A ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled has overruled a Berkeley city ordinance banning natural gas hookups in new buildings—a dramatic legal setback for the first citywide ordinance mandating all-electric power in the United States.  

Maya Earls and Samantha Hawkins report on the court ruling for Bloomberg Law, noting that the lawsuit was pursued by the California Restaurant Association and that the ruling hinged on a question of preemption. In the end, the court ruling decided that the city ordinance was preempted by the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA).

Berkeley can’t bypass preemption by banning natural gas piping within buildings rather than banning natural gas products themselves,” the panel wrote in the ruling.

“By its plain text and structure, EPCA’s preemption provision encompasses building codes that regulate natural gas use by covered products,” Judge Patrick J. Bumatay wrote for the panel. “And by preventing such appliances from using natural gas, the new Berkeley building code does exactly that.”

Berkeley approved its natural gas ban in 2019, setting the stage for San FranciscoSeattle, and other cities to approve their own versions of gas bans. Natural gas hookups became a flare in the culture war earlier this year after a commissioner for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission suggested the agency could ban gas stoves, like the city of Berkeley attempted to do at the local level. 

Monday, April 17, 2023 in Bloomberg Law

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