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News Release: Building Industry Association asks cities to pause natural gas bans in light of 9th Circuit court ruling

May 19, 2023

OLYMPIA…The Building Industry Association of Washington has asked local leaders to pause natural gas bans in three Washington cities in light of a recent 9th Circuit Court decision invalidating a natural gas ban in Berkeley, Calif.

In letters to the city attorneys of Shoreline, Bellingham and Seattle, the association asserts “the state is under the jurisdiction of the 9th circuit, so a final decision will be binding in our state and on local governments, as well as the parties to the case in California.”

City of Berkeley ban invalidated

In California Restaurant Association v. City of Berkeley, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled federal law preempts the City of Berkeley’s ban on installing natural gas piping in new construction.

In its decision, the Court ruled the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act expressly preempts state and local regulations concerning the energy use of many natural gas appliances, including those used in household and restaurant kitchens.

The Court further noted that by its plain text and structure, the Act’s preemption provision encompasses building codes that regulate natural gas use by covered products. By preventing such appliances from using natural gas, the Berkeley building code violated the Act.

The coalition argues that the Ninth Circuit’s rationale for overturning the City of Berkely’s natural ban also applies to Washington’s energy code.

“This issue is very simple,” said Jackson Maynard, General Counsel for the Building Industry Association of Washington. “If natural gas restrictions in California are illegal under federal law, then they are also illegal here in Washington. We are proud to lead this fight to protect energy choice with other partners throughout the state.”

Natural gas bans affect housing affordability and comfort

Washington’s new energy codes add a minimum of $9,200 to the cost of a new home. According to a recent report by the National Association of Home Builders, a median-priced new home in Washington already costs $210,000 more than the national average — $635,131 compared to the national average of $425,786. At that price, nearly 81 percent of Washington’s 3.1 million households can’t afford a home.

Lack of energy choice not only affects housing affordability and availability, it also harms potential homeowners in areas where electrical outages threaten families’ abilities to stay warm or cook.

Roughly one-third of Washington households use natural gas as their primary energy source for home heating, according to the Energy Information Administration.

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