Trump-Era Federal Judge Overturns Berkeley’s Biden-Backed Natural Gas Ban, Citing Overreach

A Trump-nominated federal judge, Patrick Bumatay, has overturned Berkeley, California’s ban on natural gas in a significant decision for the energy sector, Fox News reports.

The city had attempted to eliminate gas appliances, a recent focus of the Biden Administration and left-wing politics, by prohibiting the construction of natural gas supply systems in new buildings and phasing out existing ones.

Judge Bumatay, however, stated that the city had overstepped its authority with the broad ban. In his opinion, he noted that Berkeley could “directly ban” gas stoves and appliances but not the entire natural gas sector.

He wrote, “Instead of directly banning those appliances in new buildings, Berkeley took a more circuitous route to the same result. It enacted a building code that prohibits natural gas piping into those buildings, rendering the gas appliances useless.”

Furthermore, the judge clarified, “In sum, Berkeley can’t bypass preemption by banning natural gas piping within buildings rather than banning natural gas products themselves.”

The Biden Administration, along with Democrats in Washington, is pursuing similar bans on gas appliances across the United States as part of broader efforts to target the natural gas industry, even though the United States’ vast natural fuel resources could potentially make the country completely energy independent.

Berkeley’s city council passed the ban in July 2019, with plans for it to take effect in January 2020, Fox notes.

Councilwoman Kate Harrison authored the legislation, saing it was intended to prompt “more drastic action” on climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Berkeley was the first city in the nation to approve such a measure.

The California Restaurant Association (CRA) filed a federal lawsuit challenging the city’s authority to implement the ban shortly after its approval.

Following a lower court ruling in favor of Berkeley in July 2021, the CRA filed an appeal, leading to Monday’s ruling.

CRA President and CEO Jot Condie stated on Monday, “The Ninth Circuit has unanimously affirmed the central issue in this case: local ordinances cannot override federal law.”

He added, “Cities and states are not equipped to regulate the energy use or energy efficiency of appliances that businesses and homeowners have chosen; energy policy and conservation is an issue with national scope and national security implications.”

Condie also emphasized, “This ordinance, as well as the solution it seeks, is an overreaching measure beyond the scope of any city. Natural gas appliances are crucial for restaurants to operate effectively and efficiently, as they allow for a wide variety of cuisines and innovations in the restaurant industry. Cities and states cannot ignore federal law in an effort to constrain consumer choice, and it is encouraging that the Ninth Circuit upheld this standard.”

Patrick Bumatay was nominated by President Donald J. Trump to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California in Jan, 2019.

However, he was later nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, resulting in the withdrawal of his previous nomination in Oct, 2019. He was confirmed by the Senate in Dec 2019.