California city's ban on gas-fueled kitchen equipment is overturned

A federal court ruled that the prohibition violated federal energy regulations.
Gas-fired kitchen equipment
This sight would have been prohibited in newly constructed kitchens. / Photo: Shutterstock

A federal court in California has overturned a ban on the installation of gas-fueled kitchen equipment in newly constructed restaurants and residences in Berkeley, Calif.

The Ninth Circuit Court ruled in a lawsuit brought by the California Restaurant Association (CRA) that a city ordinance that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2020 was a violation of federal regulations on providing natural gas as a cooking fuel. The Berkeley law, the first of its kind in the nation, technically outlawed the pipes that convey the gas to ovens, stoves, fryers and other pieces of kitchen equipment.

If the ban had been upheld, newly constructed restaurants would have been forced to use electric equipment, which many chefs contend does not cook food as quickly and to as precise of a temperature as gas-fired devices do.

Gas-fueled water heaters and space-heating systems would have also been outlawed.

The city passed the law as a way of lessening stress on the environment and safeguarding public health. The fumes from gas-powered devices are suspected of contribution to asthma and other respiratory ailments.

Officials of the restaurant industry had feared that the measure would be copied by cities and states throughout the nation. Since the law was passed in Berkeley, a number of other jurisdictions have indeed considered or adopted gas-equipment bans. New York state, for instance, has enacted a law that prohibits the use of gas devices, but restaurants are exempted.

"At stake was the CRA members' ability to conduct business in the state of California, which puts not only the future of restaurants at risk, but also the vibrant culture and the jobs that those restaurants bring to the area,” Courtland L. Reichman, managing partner of the law firm Reichman Jorgensen Lehman & Feldberg said in a statement.  The law practice represented the CRA in the suit.

The trade association’s initial complaint had been rejected by a lower court. The Ninth Court overturned that decision.

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