Environmental groups ask California Restaurant Association to drop gas ban lawsuit

Isabella Ko/Staff

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A group of environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club, wrote a letter Wednesday to the California Restaurant Association, or CRA, asking it to drop its lawsuit against the city of Berkeley’s gas ban ordinance.

The letter was authored by Matt Gough, the Sierra Club’s senior campaign representative, along with 11 other green groups and contained background information on the ordinance. The aim of the letter was to inform the CRA board members of the gas ban’s benefits and to facilitate dialogue between the various groups, according to Gough.

“We sent a letter to 29 restaurants on the board of the CRA and our hope was to educate restaurants about the harms of the use of gas,” Gough said. “We want to start a dialogue and make sure that everyone is fully aware of how this ordinance might affect both existing restaurants and future buildings.”

The ordinance would positively impact public health, housing affordability and efforts to combat climate change, according to the letter. A press release from the Sierra Club added that the ban would help address the environmental effects of gas emissions caused by home appliances, which make up 17% of all building emissions.

Gough added that the city of Berkeley’s new ordinance inspired 21 other cities across the state to pursue bans on the use of gas and combat related emissions. Berkeley has played an active role in combating the effects of climate change and encouraging others to do the same, according to City Councilmember Kate Harrison.

“We are the vanguard of addressing rising emission levels, and with this ban, we’re taking steps to improve everyone’s quality of living,” Harrison said. “We are also setting an example for others in terms of taking the initiative and being proactive in the fight against climate change.”

The CRA released a statement Thursday responding to the Sierra Club’s letter and the request to drop the lawsuit. According to CRA President and CEO Jot Condie, the gas ordinance would limit the number of foods that can be cooked and also compromise the safety of residents.

In the statement, Condie added that the CRA has no plans to drop the lawsuit. Earlier this month, the city of Berkeley submitted a motion to dismiss the CRA’s lawsuit on the grounds that the federal court lacks proper jurisdiction and that there are currently no consequences of the ordinance.

“Instead, the Sierra Club and other organizations have pushed through these local ordinances without a complete debate about what will undoubtedly result in the loss of flame-seared vegetables and meats, along with any number of foods dependent on the use of intense heat from a flame under a wok,” Condie said in the statement. “What are restaurants – or residents for that matter – supposed to do during the many planned outages of electricity in large swaths of California?”

Contact Aditya Katewa at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @adkatewa1.