Operations

Berkeley makes a last-ditch try to outlaw gas kitchen equipment

The California city has petitioned a federal court to have more judges consider a ban that three justices have already ruled against.
Berkeley wants burners like these to be banned. / Photo: Shutterstock

Berkeley, Calif., is making a last-ditch effort to preserve the city’s landmark plan to ban gas-fueled equipment from newly constructed kitchens within the notoriously liberal city, a frequent regulatory model for jurisdictions throughout the nation.

The ban was passed by city lawmakers to ensure that only electric devices are used in new kitchens. They and other ban proponents say the fumes given off by gas equipment can be harmful, and that using electricity is less detrimental to the environment.

The Berkeley law rankled chefs and restaurateurs because they believe gas equipment is preferable for commercial operations. They contended that gas-powered stoves, ovens and fryers heat up faster and provide more accurate temperature control.

A court challenge was filed by the California Restaurant Association, eventually reaching the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

In April, a three-judge panel from the court ruled that federal regulations govern the efficiency of utilities and how they are fueled, and that those rules currently protect the use of gas equipment.

The decision effectively thwarted the Berkeley ordinance and served as a yellow light to other areas considering a ban on gas-fired kitchen equipment.

On Wednesday, Berkeley City Attorney Farimah Faiz Brown said her office had filed a petition for an en banc rehearing by the court, or a reconsideration by the court’s chief judge and 10 affiliated judges drawn at random.

The petition contends that limiting consideration of the Berkeley ordinance to just three judges resulted in a decision that runs contrary to earlier rulings by the court and even the U.S. Supreme Court. It also contends that the panel was too narrow to decide a matter with the import to influence what happened in areas throughout the country.

The industry has readily agreed with the contention that many other jurisdictions are watching what happens in Berkeley. Proposals to ban gas kitchens have popped up in a number of statehouses and city councils.  

New York City has already banned gas equipment from the kitchens of newly constructed high-rise residences, but did not impose the obligation on restaurants.

The governor of its home state, Kathy Hochul, has filed a budget that calls for prohibiting gas kitchen equipment in new residences.

Republican members of the U.S. Congress have accused the Biden administration of slyly trying to phase out the use of gas kitchen equipment through changes in the regulatory guidelines followed by the Department of Energy.

“I thought, surely this cannot be true,” Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Texas) said in opening hearings on the topic last week in the House of Representatives. “But after looking into the details, yes—it’s true. The Biden administration is looking to regulate gas stoves out of existence.”

Fallon is chairman of the House Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Energy, Policy and Regulatory Affairs. The subcommittee opened hearings yesterday to investigate the matter, the chairman’s office announced.

Last week, researchers from Stanford University began a 10-city study to gauge the health risks of gas-powered kitchen equipment, according to The New York Times.

The topic has even bubbled up to the campaigning for the U.S. presidency. Republican Donald Trump has railed against Biden for looking to ban gas stoves and promised his supporters that he would thwart such an effort.

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