Remember when climate activists in Washington wanted to ban gas stoves? The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) Richard Trumka Jr. said at the time, “Any option is on the table. Products that can’t be made safe can be banned.” While the idea was met with significant pushback from industry leaders, lawmakers and regular consumers, the concept was still very much alive in California. Until this week, however.
On Monday, a federal appeals court ruled that a Berkeley, California ordinance banning natural gas lines in “new construction” was illegal and bypassed federal law, “rejecting the city’s attempt to scale back reliance on fossil fuels through building codes.” The ordinance was adopted in 2019 and was the first in the U.S. to ban natural gas lines for cooking and heating in newly constructed buildings. This move prompted many states to later adopt similar measures, with the conversation notably heating up this past January.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco found that the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act prevents state authority on the matter. This week’s ruling comes after a 2021 decision that rejected the challenge to the Berkeley ban.
This ruling is notable for many reasons, particularly as the Berkeley ban was the first of its kind, leading other states and localities in the same direction. The Ninth Circuit Court’s ruling also stands on the side of consumers, especially small business owners. The California Restaurant Association welcomed the ruling, noting natural-gas appliances are crucial for restaurants to operate effectively. The group’s president said, “Cities and states cannot ignore federal law in an effort to constrain consumer choice, and it is encouraging that the Ninth Circuit upheld this standard.”
Natural gas is vital to our way of life and represents a cleaner alternative to dirtier fuels. Until renewable technologies can wholly supplant these reliable energy sources, they will remain a necessity for Americans across the nation.