After a years-long legal battle, Berkeley’s natural gas ban has come to an end. The California Restaurant Assn. filed a lawsuit against the ban, and Berkeley has agreed to immediately halt enforcement of the ban on installing natural gas piping in new buildings. They have also agreed to take steps to repeal the ordinance, setting a precedent for other cities and counties in California with similar bans to follow suit. This decision comes as part of a settlement reached last week.

The ban on natural gas installation in new buildings was initially put in place as a measure to fight climate change. Burning natural gas in homes and businesses contributes to about 10% of California’s planet-warming pollution, and the state has plans to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045 by phasing out natural gas appliances and reducing demand for natural gas by 90%. However, the California Restaurant Association argued that the policy was not the right solution to address climate change.

In addition to climate change concerns, supporters of the gas ban also cited public health as a rationale for the policy. A study from Stanford University and nonprofit PSE Healthy Energy found that cooking with gas stoves can expose people to the same cancer risk as breathing secondhand cigarette smoke. Berkeley was the first U.S. city to approve a ban on gas hookups in new homes in 2019, with over 70 other cities and counties in California implementing similar bans since then.

The fate of the gas ban policies in other cities and counties in California, as well as outside the state, remains uncertain. In April 2023, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of the restaurant association against Berkeley’s ordinance, stating that the city could not preempt federal statutes by trying to regulate natural gas piping in buildings to regulate the appliances themselves. The parties involved in the lawsuit spent months working on a settlement after the appeals court declined to rehear the case.

Berkeley’s city attorney, Farimah Faiz Brown, confirmed that the city has stopped enforcing the ban and reiterated Berkeley’s commitment to being a leader on climate action. While the ban on natural gas has been revoked, the city will continue to explore alternative solutions to address climate change and public health concerns. The settlement reached between Berkeley and the California Restaurant Association marks the end of a long legal battle and a shift in policies surrounding natural gas bans in new construction.

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