**California City’s Natural Gas Ban Halted by Appeals Court**
The City of Berkeley, California’s proposed natural gas ban has faced a major setback as a federal appeals court rejected the petition to rehear the case. This ruling comes after the court had previously deemed the ban illegal. Let’s delve into the details and implications of this decision.
**Background of the Case**
The City of Berkeley’s attempt to enforce a natural gas ban in new construction was met with legal challenges. In July 2019, the city council passed the ban, making Berkeley the first city in the nation to approve such a measure. The ordinance, aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions as part of the city’s climate change efforts, was set to take effect in January 2020.
However, the California Restaurant Association (CRA) filed a federal lawsuit questioning the city’s authority to implement the ban on new natural gas hookups. Despite an initial ruling in favor of Berkeley, the CRA pursued an appeal, leading to the recent judgment by the Ninth Circuit.
**Court’s Ruling and Reaction**
The Ninth Circuit’s verdict declared that Berkeley’s law contravened the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) of 1975, which prohibits local regulations from impacting the energy use of natural gas appliances. The panel emphasized that Berkeley’s ordinance effectively rendered gas appliances useless by prohibiting natural gas piping into new buildings.
After the court’s decision, the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), which opposed Berkeley’s law, lauded the ruling for safeguarding consumer choice and ensuring the availability of multiple energy sources for home and water heating.
**Implications and Response**
The rejection of Berkeley’s petition for rehearing has wider ramifications, given the increasing trend of Democratic-led cities implementing laws that prohibit new buildings from having natural gas hookups as part of their environmental initiatives. The legal battle has attracted support from various quarters, including the Biden administration, Democratic-led states, environmentalists, industry groups like the American Gas Association, and opposing entities such as the California Restaurant Association.
The Biden administration’s stance on the issue has fueled a debate on the balance between local ordinances addressing environmental concerns and the federal regulation of energy policy. The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed an amicus brief in support of Berkeley’s gas hookup ban, advocating for local elected leaders’ authority to address health and safety concerns within their jurisdictions.
The legal confrontation over Berkeley’s natural gas ban has accentuated the complex interplay between local regulations and federal statutes in shaping energy policies. The recent court ruling not only impacts Berkeley’s climate change initiatives but also carries broader implications for similar measures in other jurisdictions. As the debate continues, it remains to be seen how the interaction between local and federal authorities will evolve in the pursuit of sustainable and environmentally conscious policies.