Lawsuit challenges Berkeley’s right to ban natural gas appliances

By KAREN VELIE

A mere six weeks after the Berkeley City Council voted to ban natural gas appliances in new construction, the San Luis Obispo City Council followed suit. And now Berkeley is battling a lawsuit, and SLO could be next.

Last summer, noting plans to fight global warming, the Berkeley and SLO city councils voted for bans to begin in Jan. 2020. While some environmentalists touted the move as an important part of lowering carbon emission levels, opponents argued it would do little to change emission levels, while raising the cost of living in SLO.

In its lawsuit filed last Thursday in federal court, the California Restaurant Association argues the ban will damage the ability of international restaurants, which are prized in the Bay Area, to produce many of their favorite dishes.

The lawsuit also argues the Berkeley ordinance bypassed state and federal laws including the U.S. Energy Policy and Conservation Act.

Two months ago, attorney Saro Rizzo sent SLO a letter  in which he pointed out the errors in its ordinance, which he said would have a problem winning a legal challenge.

In late September, SLO City officials suspended the plan to phase out the use of natural gas appliances while they look into allegations Councilwoman Andy Pease violated conflict of interest rules by voting on the ordinance. Pease is a partner in Balance Green Consulting, a company in line to financially benefit from the city’s proposed energy policy.

In response to Rizzo’s letter, city administrators decided to revamp their ordinance. If the second draft is anything like the first, a group of businessmen and union workers plan on lodging a lawsuit against the city, Keith Gurnee said.

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