California Restaurant Association Aims to Overturn Berkeley Natural Gas Ban

The California Restaurant Association is taking aim at Berkeley, California’s ban on natural gas infrastructure in newly constructed buildings, saying the ordinance will do little to further environmental goals while imposing undue harm on businesses and consumers.

In a lawsuit filed last week, the trade association asked a the U.S. District Court for Northern California to void the ban, arguing that that the city “bypassed clear federal and state law” in passing it.  

Berkeley became the first city in the nation to ban natural gas in new buildings last summer when it caved to the demands of Green New Dealers who’ve proven to be more concerned about playing politics than advancing sound policies.

“With millions of Californians sitting in the dark to avoid wildfires, and California’s energy grid under historic strain, banning the use of natural gas is irresponsible and does little to advance the climate goals,” CRA said. “[A] shift to “all electric” also will impose greater costs on Berkeley businesses and consumers, in the midst of an affordable housing crisis.”

The lawsuit comes amid growing questions over whether the environmental benefits of going all-electric are rooted in fact. According to Stanford University Professor Anthony Kovscek, swapping out natural gas for electricity could will increase – not decrease – CO2 emissions.

“[M]aking electricity from natural gas and then using electricity to heat water for an early morning shower produces roughly three times as much CO2 as using natural gas directly,” Kovscek recently wrote. “We need to question critically whether banning new natural gas hookups actually reduces carbon dioxide emissions as natural gas will continue to be used—just in a more inefficient way.”

Natural gas has been credited as a key factor “a major factor in recent reductions in the carbon intensity of electric generation in the United States,” according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. From 2005 to 2018, cumulative emissions reductions attributable to shifts from coal to natural gas totaled 2,823 million metric tons of CO2, the federal agency said in a recent report.

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