The nation’s first natural gas ban is repealed but advocates seek other ways to ban stoves

With billions of dollars flowing to nonprofits dedicated to eliminating natural gas use, there are similar laws across the U.S. that have passed or are being considered.

Published: April 1, 2024 11:00pm

The City of Berkeley, California, announced it is repealing its ban on natural-gas hookups in new construction. The law, passed in 2019, was the first of its kind in the United States. A federal court struck down the ordinance in April 2023, which created legal uncertainty for all the bans that followed Berkeley’s lead.

However, with billions of dollars flowing to nonprofits dedicated to eliminating natural gas use, there are similar laws across the U.S. that have passed or are being considered.

Berkeley and beyond

The Berkeley ordinance went into effect in 2020, and it required that new commercial and residential buildings, with some exceptions, use only electricity with no natural gas hookups. The goal was to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

Since its passage, 76 counties and cities in California have passed similar legislation, as have New York and Seattle. Massachusetts passed a law that limits the amount that local natural gas utilities can recover, which effectively decommissions the existing gas system. Chicago is also in the process of considering a ban of its own.

After Berkeley’s law passed, the California Restaurant Association sued the city, arguing that it violated federal law, and last April, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals shot down the ordinance. In January, the court denied a rehearing for the case.

“Climate change must be addressed, but piecemeal policies at the local level like bans on natural gas piping in new buildings or all-electric ordinances, which are preempted by federal law, are not the answer,” said Jot Condie, CEO of the California Restaurant Association, in a statement.

By repealing the law, Berkeley settles the lawsuit with the association.

Following the 9th Circuit’s ruling against Berkeley, communities in California, Oregon and Washington suspended their anti-gas policies, but according to the climate activist publication Grist, advocates of the bans are seeking ways to craft laws that force residents to give up natural gas without being as vulnerable to legal challenges.

“Elected officials’ and regulators’ resolve to address this issue has not gone away. They just need to work through new avenues that are legally defensible,” Dylan Plummer, a senior field organizing strategist with the Sierra Club, told Grist.

These alternative approaches include gas bans through building codes and statewide bans on utilities offering new natural gas service.

With the laws spreading so quickly, at least 24 mostly red states moved to prohibit such bans.

Billionaire donors

The activism that lobbies for these regulations is well funded.

Energy expert Robert Bryce documented the billions of dollars wealthy anti-fossil fuel activists have poured into the effort to eliminate natural gas from Americans’ homes. This includes a group called Climate Imperative, which was founded in 2021 and announced a planned budget of $180 million annually over five years. The group is headed by two former Sierra Club executives, Bruce Nilles and Mary Anne Hitt.

The Sierra Club is a major recipient of former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Bloomberg Philanthropies, which pledged in 2019 $500 million to its "Beyond Carbon" project. Bloomberg also donated another $500 million in a campaign to shut down coal-fired electrical generation in the U.S.

Bloomberg Philanthropies has worked in a close partnership with the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), which produced the study that initiated the national controversy over gas-stove bans. The study claimed to find a strong association between the use of gas stoves in the home and childhood asthma, but critics have noted it used a methodology that excluded research that disputes its conclusions.

According to RMI’s 2022 tax filings, the nonprofit had nearly $117 million in revenues, and the group enjoys large million-dollar donations, such as a $10 million gift in 2020 from Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ foundation, the Bezos Earth Fund.


Multiple long-term and seasonal assessments by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation over the past few years have found growing electricity supply problems. While the U.S. grid can currently handle normal loads, during periods of inclement weather, risks of blackouts are increasing.

According to the assessments, the main cause is the rapid retirement of coal-fired power plants and an overreliance on wind and solar power, which depends on weather conditions to produce electricity. And that is not always in line with periods of peak demand.

Likewise, a lot of electricity generation has switched from coal to natural gas. Natural gas provides reliable energy, but it’s not as easy to store. During periods of extreme cold, residential heating needs strain gas supplies, which risks blackouts.

While Bloomberg seeks to shut down every coal plant in the world, he is also pushing laws that force people to use electricity to heat their homes and cook their food. This will only increase electricity demands on the grid, and does not address those periods where inclement weather or lack of wind or daylight cannot support such efforts.

Rising costs

Electrification of home heating will also drive up heating costs. Some spikes aside, since 2009, the daily average spot price at the key U.S. natural gas hub has hovered around $5 per million British thermal units, which is a metric used to measure gas. It hit record lows of $1.50 in February.

During that time, the average price per kilowatt hour of electricity has risen from 12.6 cents in January 2009 to 17.3 cents in January 2024.

Looking at New York City’s ban on new natural gas hookups in 2021, Reuters reported that the average household in the Northeast U.S. would pay $1,535 to heat their home with electricity, but only $865 with natural gas.

A dozen communities in Massachusetts partnered with the RMI in 2021 to lobby for laws that force residents to electrify their heating. A recent analysis by the Energy Policy Research Foundation estimated that conversions to electric heat in existing homes will cost the state’s residents between $11 billion and $44 billion.

While the 9th Circuit torpedoed the nation’s first local natural gas ban, states and cities, pushed on by well-funded activists, are taking different avenues to produce bans that they hope won’t get shot down in court.

As studies show, heating the American home might get a lot more expensive for states that adopt the rules.

Unlock unlimited access

  • No Ads Within Stories
  • No Autoplay Videos
  • VIP access to exclusive Just the News newsmaker events hosted by John Solomon and his team.
  • Support the investigative reporting and honest news presentation you've come to enjoy from Just the News.
  • Just the News Spotlight

    Support Just the News