Court throws out natural gas ban in construction

A federal appeals court overturned Berkeley, California’s first-in-the-nation ban on natural gas in new construction, agreeing with restaurant owners who argued the city bypassed federal energy regulations when it approved the ordinance.

The measure, which took effect in 2020, was intended to reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses that contribute to global warming. With some exceptions, it banned new residential and commercial buildings from installing natural gas piping in favor of electrical lines.

A lawsuit by the California Restaurant Association claimed the regulation violated federal law that gives the U.S. government authority to set energy-efficiency standards for appliances such as stoves, furnaces and water heaters.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco rejected a lower court judge’s decision two years ago that had upheld the Berkeley ordinance.

The federal appeals court is the first to weigh in on bans against new natural gas hookups. New York City, San Francisco, San Jose and Seattle are among dozens of U.S. municipalities that have enacted similar restrictions since Berkeley adopted its rule, citing environmental and health concerns.

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