A federal appeals court on Monday overturned a California city’s first-in-the-nation ban on natural gas hookups in new buildings, saying it violates federal law.
The three-judge panel from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal sided with a coalition of California restaurants, who argued that the City of Berkeley’s ordinance essentially bans gas appliances in violation of a 1975 directive that gives Congress control over restrictions on appliances. The unanimous ruling is a major blow to California Democrats’ green energy push, and could clear the way for legal challenges to similar bans around the country.
Democrats have increasingly moved to ban gas stoves while attempting to downplay their efforts. New York is poised to become the first state to ban gas stoves, and California is working towards a statewide ban of its own. The White House has denied that President Joe Biden supports banning gas stoves while the Energy Department works to restrict their sale. Blue state attorneys general and environmental groups lined up to support the ban in court, in a sign of the case’s national implications.
The California Restaurant Association claimed Berkeley’s ban violated the 1975 Energy Policy and Conservation Act , which gives the federal government final say over restrictions on energy appliances.
Judge Patrick Bumatay wrote that even though Berkeley lawmakers didn’t specifically ban the use of natural gas appliances, they reached the same result "circuitously" by changing their building code to ban gas piping—a policy that renders "the gas appliances useless," he said.
This preemption would apply to state policies as well, he added.
"States and localities can’t skirt [federal preemption] by doing indirectly what Congress says they can’t do directly," he wrote.
California conservatives cheered the decision. Carl DeMaio, chairman of the conservative political action group Reform California, said the decision will not only apply "to these mandates on new construction, but will also block the costly home retrofits that a number of cities and counties have been implementing."