Federal court strikes down Berkeley’s natural gas ban

The court struck down Berkeley’s environmentalist policy based on the authority of the federal government to regulate energy consumption.

Three years ago the City of Berkeley banned natural gas in new construction on the basis of saving the environment. 

Now, a federal appeals judge has overturned the rule, siding with the restaurant who sued the city. 


The backstory: Berkeley’s 2020 law banned new residential and commercial buildings from installing natural gas piping, requiring electrical lines instead. 

  • The California Restaurant Association sued Berkeley, saying that the law violated the federal government’s authority to set energy-efficiency standards for appliances. 
  • The California Restaurant Association appealed a 2021 decision from U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers who sided with Berkeley. 

Driving the news: The ruling this week came down from the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which overturned Gonzalez Rogers’ ruling. 

  • In the appeal ruling, Judge Patrick Bumatay wrote that Berkeley’s ordinance impacted the quantity of energy consumed, something that is regulated by the federal government. 
  • The Ninth Circuit Court handed down its decision on a 3-0 ruling. 

What they’re saying: California Restaurant Association President Jot Condie celebrated the decision as a win against the government overreach beyond the scope of any city. 

  • “Cities and states are not equipped to regulate the energy use or energy efficiency of appliances that businesses and homeowners have chosen; energy policy and conservation is an issue with national scope and national security implications,” Condie said in a statement. 

The other side: Environmentalist nonprofit organization Earthjustice opposed the ruling, with attorney Matt Vespa calling the decision misguided. 

  • “As we face a climate and air quality crisis from coast to coast, it is vital that cities and states maintain all legal pathways to protect public health, cut climate emissions, and increase safety by addressing pollution from buildings, and we’ll continue to fight to ensure this authority is preserved,” Vespa said in a statement.
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