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Berkeley Councilwoman Kate Harrison. (City of Berkeley)
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California Restaurant Association Sues Berkeley Over The City’s Natural Gas Ban

The city law goes against both state and federal law over how energy use standards are adopted

By Evan Symon, November 22, 2019 4:12 pm

Berkeley received a lawsuit Thursday from the California Restaurant Association over the city’s natural gas ban in new buildings.

The Restaurant Association’s lawsuit argues that the restaurant industry would be harmed because of the changes to how chefs cook food, as well as the additional costs of switching away from gas. The lawsuit also argues that the city law goes against both state and federal law over how energy use standards are adopted.

“Many restaurants will be faced with the inability to make many of their products which require the use of specialized gas appliances to prepare, including for example flame-seared meats, charred vegetables, or the use of intense heat from a flame under a wok,” the lawsuit says.

It also pointed out the local implications to restaurants, saying “Indeed, restaurants specializing in ethnic foods so prized in the Bay Area will be unable to prepare many of their specialties without natural gas.”

The Berkeley, CA Skyline.

Earlier this year, Berkeley City Councilwoman Kate Harrison pushed for a new law that would ban natural gas from being used in newly constructed buildings.

“We need to tackle climate change every way that we can and by doing this, we’re not asking people to change that much,” said Councilwoman Harrison. “It’s going to give us a better life. We’re going to have a cleaner environment. We’re going to have less health problems. We’re going to have less danger in our homes. We have health effects that have never been considered. That come from burning natural gas.”

The city also released findings that 27% of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions are from natural gas, adding fuel to the argument of the ban.

In July, the city council unanimously voted for the law, becoming the first city in the United States to ban natural gas in new buildings. Since then, over a dozen Californian cities, most notably San Jose, have voted for similar bans. It has also had effects nationwide, with a few cities in New England also passing bans since July.

“The city really wanted this,” said Oakland restaurant investor Charles Cabel. “But a lot of restaurants there depend on this. An open flame is essential to the industry, not to mention the quickest way to cook, and the safest way to ensure food is properly cooked. It’s Berkeley too, so this law would really have to hurt them and threaten their livelihood for them to do this and bring on a lawsuit. If there was a way around it, they would have done it without complaining.”

Berkeley’s new law banning natural gas in new buildings is set to go into effect on January 1st, with the lawsuit possibly upending the ban as soon as early next year.

Evan Symon

Evan V. Symon is the Senior Editor for the California Globe. Prior to the Globe, he reported for the Pasadena Independent, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and was head of the Personal Experiences section at Cracked. He can be reached at evan@californiaglobe.com.
Evan Symon
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