A federal court may have dealt a blow to Irvine’s plans to have most new buildings in the city be all-electric.
A federal appeals court last week ruled that Berkeley cannot enforce a natural gas ban in new buildings, citing federal law that says only the U.S. government can set energy-efficiency standards for appliances such as stoves, furnaces and water heaters.
While Berkeley was the first city in the nation to adopt the ban on natural gas hookups, more than 70 cities across California have followed suit with similar plans, including Los Angeles and Irvine, reflecting a statewide trend of moving away from gas.
Irvine’s general counsel is reviewing the federal appeals court ruling, said Councilmember Kathleen Treseder. However, she said, the council still plans to move forward with its building electrification ordinance during its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday.
In March, Irvine’s leaders unanimously approved the decision to go all-electric in most new buildings, becoming the first city in Orange County to move away from fossil fuels in new constructions. As part of Irvine’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, the goal is to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. And the new ordinance set to go into effect on July 1 will help the city achieve that, city staffers said, because 33% of Irvine’s greenhouse gas emissions are from buildings.
However, Irvine’s ordinance has some exemptions: new commercial restaurants with traditional cooking methods that utilize an open flame, like Korean barbeque restaurants where patrons grill meat at the table. Other exceptions include new multi-family homes’ water heating systems and new buildings with unique circumstances where complying with the ordinance is infeasible.
The council has another vote on the ordinance scheduled for Tuesday during its 4 p.m. meeting at 1 Civic Center Plaza.
Berkeley’s measure took effect in 2020, but a lawsuit by the California Restaurant Association claimed the regulation violated federal law.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco last week rejected a lower court judge’s decision two years ago that had upheld the Berkeley ordinance. Judge Patrick Bumatay wrote in the 3-0 Ninth Circuit ruling that a local ordinance that bans appliances such as gas stoves “impacts the quantity of energy” they consume, which is regulated by the federal government.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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