Manatt Energy and Environment Partner David Smith was quoted in an article in California Energy Markets about a recent appeals court decision that overturned an ordinance in the City of Berkeley that would limit natural gas use, which would have far-reaching effects in California and beyond.
Berkeley instituted a ban on natural gas piping in 2019, citing public health and safety issues, which started a series of legal challenges from the California Restaurant Association that eventually landed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The court ruled in the Association’s favor, saying the city “can’t bypass preemption by banning natural gas piping within buildings rather than banning natural gas products themselves.”
"It's a very sweeping ruling," Smith said. "The court is just reading the statute and giving it full preemptive effect. It significantly curtails the ability of cities, counties and even the state to disallow natural gas for use in new buildings.
Smith said the Ninth Circuit’s decision could have sweeping national implications, but it’s unlikely federal legislators will take action. Additionally, in what Smith said is a rare statement for a court to state in a ruling, the Energy Policy and Conservation Act’s waiver provision for unique circumstances is not applicable.
"Building decarbonization is absolutely essential to meeting the state's climate action objectives,” Smith said. “This presents a major impediment to decarbonization. The most clear fix would be for Congress to address the statutes.”
Read the full California Energy Markets article here.