Federal Court Shoots Down Natural Gas Hook-Up Ban

By Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association

War against conventional energy and U.S. consumers continues

Chalk up a rare win for the hard-working consumer in the self-destructive war being waged by anti-fossil fuel radicals. Two weeks ago, a federal appeals court in California affirmed an earlier decision that the city of Berkeley has no authority to ban natural gas infrastructure for new business and residential buildings as per legislation City Council approved in July 2019.

The ruling is a win not only for the residents of Berkely who, as many of us do, rely on affordable, clean natural gas for cooking and heating, but will certainly discourage similar tactics in other left-run cities, counties, and states.

“Consumer choice is the first and most important element in market competition,” said PMA President & CEO David N. Taylor. “The federal court ruling preserving consumer choice in residential and commercial heating and cooking is a very welcome development that we hope will set precedent for all future cases. Cost-effective, market-priced domestic energy is the lifeblood of America’s economy.”

In the ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said that Berkeley City Council has no authority to ban natural gas hookups – the authority to regulate commercial kitchen products lies with the U.S. Department of Energy under the “Energy Policy and Conservation Act.”

The impact of the decision for Pennsylvania is profound. We are the nation’s second largest producer of natural gas, and as pointed out by a recent report in the Delaware Valley Journal, a state where “47 percent of households rely on natural gas or propane for heat, far more than electricity (29 percent) or heating oil (20 percent).”

What’s more, a vast majority of Americans support the court ruling. A 2021 national Morning Consult poll found that “when it comes to the choice between natural gas and electricity for cooking, natural gas is still the favored choice: 73 percent of respondents who prefer to keep their gas stoves said they’ve used both and electric ‘did not work as well as gas alternatives.’”

But popular sentiment means nothing to the radical Greens embedded in the Biden Administration.

In the past few months, the Department of Energy has unveiled new standards for a wide variety of appliances including stovetops, water heaters, gas furnaces, clothes washers, dishwashers, refrigerators, and air conditioners

According to an analysis by the Alliance For Consumers, the regulations would, on average, make water heaters cost $2,800 more, gas stoves as much as $3,250 more expensive, air conditioners $1,100 more expensive, and gas furnaces nearly $500 more expensive.

These same opponents of natural gas are working to bias the nation’s judges as well, according to a recent Legal Newsline report.

A little noticed environmental group with the innocuous-sounding name of the “Climate Judiciary Project” (CJP) has held seminars and other educational programs for judges across the nation to provide “reliable, up-to-date information” about climate change litigation since 2018.

What the group is really all about, says Scott Walter, President of the Capital Research Center (CRC), a Washington D.C.-based watchdog group, is to prejudice judges to rule against fossil fuels in the Green’s multipronged litigation attack on oil, coal, and natural gas.

“The Climate Judiciary Project hopes to indoctrinate judges in the gospel of environmentalism, which explains why it’s the creation of a handful of politically powerful billionaires who share the same last name, Foundation. As in Hewlett, Pew, and the like,” Walter said.

According to CRC’s Influencer Watch site, CJP collaborates with national judicial education institutions in an effort to increase federal, state, and local judges’ familiarity with “left-of-center interpretations of climate science methods, concepts, and regulations.” 

CJP is a child of the left-wing Environmental Law Institute, a Green legal advocacy organization established in 1969. CRC reports as of May 2023, more than 1,000 judges have participated in the group’s programming, which includes 13 curriculum modules and 21 contributors. The group links climate change to fossil fuel production and use.

“The only factor that can clearly explain the rising temperatures of the two centuries is the increasing level of atmospheric greenhouse gases, modulated by land cover change and increases in atmospheric aerosols (pollutants) from human activities,” one of CJP modules states.

Suing energy companies is a lucrative and growing business.

“Over the past two decades, plaintiffs’ lawyers and environmental groups have sought to join forces with public officials to sue America’s energy manufacturers over global climate change,” a recent report by the Manufacturers’ Accountability Project notes. “Climate tort litigation has attracted an array of plaintiffs from small and big municipalities to crab fishermen to the State of Rhode Island. The lawsuits all ask courts to make energy manufacturers pay for impacts of global climate change by blaming them for selling products that contribute to climate change.”

The win in Berkeley is an important one, but the onslaught against the consumer and conventional energy on every level continues.

Nothing contained here should be considered as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any legislation.

The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Susquehanna Valley Center.