Court: Berkeley cannot enforce its ban on natural gas

The city of Berkeley lost its latest legal battle to enforce a ban on natural gas pipes in new construction.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied Berkeley's petition for the court to re-hear the case after the ban was ruled illegal last year.

There was a sense of relief at La Marcha, a restaurant in Berkeley, as the staff cooks Spanish cuisine on all natural gas appliances after a federal appeals court refused to allow the city to enforce its first in the nation ban on installing natural gas appliances in new buildings.

"Surprised but really relieved," the restaurant's co-owner Emily Sarlatte.

She added she's concerned such a ban would eventually lead to prohibiting restaurants from cooking with natural gas appliances.  

"Cook times would be a lot longer," Sarlatte said. "Trying to caramelize something, it totally affects the flavor by cooking that way.  Being able to control the heat on our grill, you get that nice charcoal flavor."

But supporters of the ban said the Berkeley ordinance, which took effect in 2020, was intended to combat global warming. 

It was ruled illegal last year.

This latest ruling means the federal appeals court rejected a petition to rehear the case. 

City council member Kate Harrison authored the legislation.

She issued a written statement which said in part, "the city will continue to do everything in its power to fight climate change and protect the health of its residents."

"The environment definitely suffers from gas emissions," said Berkeley resident Sylvia Mullaly.
Still, she opposed the ban,"Until there is something else that isn't electric that could work and that's efficient and isn't costly and so forth, I would say that they have to allow it."

"I feel like this would put a lot of restaurants out of business to comply by this," Sarlatte said, adding that a ban would likely put her out of business. "Buying that much equipment wasn't cheap and can't imagine it would be cheap now."  

KTVU reached out to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. A spokesperson said its attorneys are reviewing the court ruling and they're not available for interviews at this time. 

The ruling will become final unless the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to review it.

Amber Lee is a reporter with KTVU.  Email Amber at or text/leave message at 510-599-3922. Follow her on Facebook @AmberKTVU,  Instagram @AmberKTVU  or Twitter @AmberKTVU.