Berkeley to Repeal Gas Stove Ordinance

You might remember that in 2019, Berkeley, California, became the first city in the US to officially ban the use of natural gas in newly constructed buildings. But now, it seems their city-wide law has fallen flat, so much so that it’s been reversed in its entirety.

As the “green” movement has spread, more liberally led and climate change concerned cities like Berkeley have moved to implement rules and regulations that move us more towards increased electric use. While they couldn’t ban natural gas entirely, they could ensure that new construction didn’t contain this clear abomination to our environment.

Naturally, the first-ever rule didn’t exactly go over well with everyone.

In particular, the California Restaurant Association, or CRA, had a problem with it. After all, cooking a steak on an electric stove is not nearly the same, is it?

So they filed a lawsuit in November of 2019 claiming that the legislation was not only “irresponsible” amid growing electrical outages but also did “little to advance climate goals.”

This went to a federal district court in July of 2021, where it was dismissed. However, the CRA was not giving up. So, they took it to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In 2023, that court ruled that the city ordinance could not continue.

According to the ruling, the city didn’t have the authority to ban natural gas in new construction, as it was a “domain preempted by Congress.”

Of course, Berkeley wasn’t about to give up either. And so, it went back to court for a while. But after years of legal fees and a case seemingly going nowhere, Berkeley has finally agreed to settle.

One of the settlements includes that the city will officially repeal the 2019 ordinance altogether.

To be sure, it’s a big win for natural gas companies everywhere. And yes, I mean everywhere.

You see since Berkeley first implemented their now reversed law, 74 other cities, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, have passed similar laws.

Naturally, with Berkeley’s law officially falling through, the likelihood is that those elsewhere could as well. In fact, Santa Cruz and San Luis Obispo have already announced repeals of their natural gas city bans.

However, it’s important to note that not all similar laws are structured the same way. And that means not all of them would be likely to fail legal scrutiny.

For example, San Francisco believes it won’t have to walk back their ban on gas hookups.

For starters, Supervisor Rafael Mandelman says no one has ever “come to us asking us to change or repeal our law.”

Secondly, it’s not as if the electrification movement is slowing down. Environmental groups are urging more and more cities and municipalities nationwide to move away from fossil fuels, so the movement does seem to be growing.

To be sure, that is not necessarily a bad thing. It only really becomes a problem when citizens and cities have their choices taken from them. If we all eventually move to electric only, or some other alternative form of energy of our own volition, it shouldn’t be a big deal.

It’s the definition of democracy, after all.

In the meantime, however, cities shouldn’t be able to tell us how to heat our homes and cook our food. In fact, 24 states have already made laws ensuring just that.

Berkeley just found out the hard way. New York City also has a similar ordinance that is under legal fire at present.