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Attorney General Bonta Files Brief in Support of City of Berkeley’s Ban on Natural Gas Hookups in New Buildings

OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta, leading a coalition of eight states, the District of Columbia, and New York City, today filed an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of the City of Berkeley’s ordinance prohibiting the installation of natural gas hookups in new buildings. Residential and commercial buildings in California are responsible for approximately 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the state, and a significant amount of building emissions are attributable to gas-burning appliances, such as furnaces and water heaters, which also emit large amounts of smog-forming oxides of nitrogen (NOx). In today's brief, the coalition urges the Ninth Circuit to affirm the district court's decision, which upheld the ordinance against a claim that it is preempted by federal law. 

“Many of us have embraced 21st-century technology in all aspects of our lives except when it comes to heating our homes and workplaces,” said Attorney General Bonta. “The use of gas in buildings is a significant source of emissions and threat to public health and safety. I urge the Ninth Circuit to affirm the district court’s decision and recognize state and local governments’ longstanding authority over gas distribution.”

Since the City of Berkeley passed this first-of-its-kind ordinance, dozens of local governments in California and across the country have adopted similar measures prohibiting the installation of natural gas infrastructure in newly constructed buildings in an effort to fight climate change and protect public health. Gas-burning appliances are significant sources of local emissions. By contrast, the electricity provided by California’s electric grid — increasingly from renewable sources of energy — is better for the climate and local air quality. Shifting away from gas infrastructure and toward electricity also reduces indoor air pollution resulting from gas appliance use, which can exacerbate respiratory conditions like asthma and other health problems. 

In November 2019, the California Restaurant Association sued the City of Berkeley, arguing that its natural gas ordinance is preempted under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, the federal law authorizing energy efficiency standards for certain consumer appliances. After a district court ruled in the City of Berkeley's favor, the California Restaurant Association appealed the case to the Ninth Circuit.   

In today’s brief, a California-led coalition argues in support of the City of Berkeley. The coalition argues that the statutory provision that the California Restaurant Association is relying upon preempts only state appliance energy efficiency standards and laws that similarly regulate the amount of energy particular appliances are designed to use. It does not take away state and local governments’ longstanding authority over gas distribution.

Attorney General Bonta is joined by the attorneys general of the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Washington, as well as the City of New York in filing the brief.

A copy of the brief can be found here.