The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned a 2019 natural gas ban that applied to the construction of new buildings in Berkeley, California.
The Washington Times reports Berkeley was the first city in the U.S. to ban natural gas lines in new construction. In a unanimous decision, the City Council said the ban was necessary to support Berkeley's goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The federal appeals court's three-judge panel based in San Francisco handed down the unanimous decision on Monday, siding with the California Restaurant Association to halt the city's effort, saying it violates federal law that gives the U.S. government the authority to set energy-efficiency standards for appliances.
Judge Patrick Bumatay wrote in the 3-0 Ninth Circuit ruling that a local ordinance that bans appliances such as gas stoves "impacts the quantity of energy" they consume, which is under federal regulation.
The ruling overturned the decision of a judge in a lower court in 2021, which had dismissed the case because city officials were not trying to regulate energy efficiency for appliances but only the fuel they used.
The 9th Circuit Court's decision may set a precedent that could affect municipalities across the country.
The Heritage Foundation said in a statement, "While this is good news and a major win when it comes to pushing back against the Biden Administration's anti-conventional fuels agenda, it is important to acknowledge that the Court's decision is predicated on federal pre-emption provisions in the Environmental Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) of 1975. At the federal level, the Department of Energy is currently manipulating this same Act to set stringent energy efficiency standards for gas stoves, further pushing Americans toward electrification and introducing a de facto ban on an entire class of appliances."
Berkeley City Councilmember Kate Harrison, who authored the 2019 ordinance, said she doesn't know how the city council will respond, but noted that a ban on natural gas or efforts to curtail the use of natural gas has spread to 70 communities in California, and even to Seattle and New York City.
If the city decides to respond, it could ask for a rehearing in front of all 29 judges who sit on the Ninth Circuit's bench. If it continues, that challenge could ultimately wind up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Gas stoves are in the spotlight in America's culture wars as more Democrat-controlled cities and states move to limit or ban their use in the name of climate change.
In January, comments from the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission that "any option is on the table" to regulate gas stoves sparked outrage from conservatives who said it amounted to government intrusion in people's homes. The White House has said that President Joe Biden doesn't support a ban on gas stoves.