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'Incredibly disappointing': City of Berkeley blocked from natural gas ban

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The city of Berkeley has been blocked from a natural gas ban by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.


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APRIL 25, 2023

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit blocked the city of Berkeley from enacting a natural gas piping ban in the case California Restaurant Association, or CRA, v. City of Berkeley.

The natural gas ban ordinance, introduced by Berkeley city councilmember Kate Harrison and co-authored by councilmember Sophie Hahn, called for a city-wide ban on natural gas piping in new buildings in an effort to combat climate change and increased health and safety.

“We’ve had 70 cities follow suit, 51 in California,” Harrison said. “This started a movement to people looking at why electricity is preferred (from) cost, public safety and health perspectives.”

After working with a California-based energy commission, Harrison reported that using electricity was “more efficient” than gas due to the use of new technologies.

Hahn expressed that it was “incredibly disappointing” that the appeals court ruled against the legislation, which was meant to protect Berkeley residents from the impacts of climate change.

“This damaging and short-sighted ruling will not discourage me from leading on the fight against climate change. The stakes for Berkeley and our planet are far too high,” Hahn said in an email.

Berkeley city councilmember Rigel Robinson noted in an email that the litigation is still in “its early stages” and that the Ninth Circuit’s ruling is “not final.”

According to Robinson, electrification is the path to lowering building emissions.

“As the threat of climate chaos looms, we must adapt our energy consumption to more sustainable methods,” Robinson said in an email.

The CRA released a statement in response to the court decision.

CEO and CRA president Jot Condie noted in the statement that local ordinances cannot overrule federal law, the central issue of the case.

“This ordinance is an overreaching measure beyond the scope of any city,” Condie said in the statement. “Natural gas appliances are crucial for restaurants to operate effectively and efficiently.”

The CRA found the ordinance to “imminently harm” its members, stating that it discouraged restaurants planning to relocate to or open new restaurants in the area.

Tai Yu, co-owner of Great China restaurant in Berkeley, explained that a natural gas ban would pose a unique challenge when making Asian cuisine.

“The real concern is that a ban on natural gas for future new restaurants and commercial spaces will disproportionately impact a specific subset of cuisines — namely Asian cuisines that use wok burners,” he said in an email.

Great China already has a restaurant space that is “grandfathered in” for natural gas use, so it has not been affected.

However, Yu shared concerns for the future of Asian restaurants in Berkeley.

“I assure you the current technology for induction burners cannot yield the same result and quality of food that you can with natural gas,” Yu said.

Yu fears that this ban could deter Asian restaurants in Berkeley from leasing spaces because the quality of food would severely diminish without natural gas.

Despite this, Harrison said many chefs prefer electric burners because they are much less hot and because induction burners carry “no heat remnant.”

Sharokina Shams, Vice President of Public Affairs for CRA, noted that the decision will allow restaurants to continue the use of natural gas.

However, Shams noted that the Ninth Circuit’s decision can still be appealed by the city. She added in an email that court proceedings for the case “may not be quite over yet.”

“Berkeley prides itself on being a food hub destination,” Yu said. “It’s a place where you can find an array of different types of cuisines and cultures. With the current limits on induction technology, I don’t think a ban on natural gas can be equitably employed without disproportionately affecting Asian restaurant businesses. (It) will ultimately lead to a lack of diversity of cuisine offerings.”

There will be a press conference regarding the gas ban at the Berkeley City Hall at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday morning, according to Harrison.

Contact Joann Moon at 


APRIL 25, 2023