The ban was enacted earlier this year
By Chris Hippensteel, Times Union
ALBANY — A group of businesses, trade associations and labor unions filed a federal lawsuit Thursday challenging the legality of New York’s ban on gas stoves and furnaces in new residential buildings — a central pillar of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s push for green energy.
The first-of-its-kind statewide ban, which includes several carve-outs, was enacted earlier this year as part of the governor’s $229 billion state budget. It is slated to take effect for new buildings below seven stories in 2026, and for taller structures in 2029.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Albany, asserts that a decades-old federal statute — the Energy Policy and Conservation Act — preempts any state or local regulations on energy consumption by appliances, and thus negates the New York law. A ruling in the plaintiffs’ favor could carry ramifications for national energy policy and cast doubt over local gas bans across the country, including one in New York City.
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Read a breakdown of the gas appliance ban
“EPCA reflects Congress’s decision that the nation’s energy policy cannot be dictated by state and local governments,” the petition states. “Such a patchwork approach would be the antithesis of a national energy policy.”
The lawsuit also repeats points raised by Republican lawmakers who oppose the gas stove ban, including that it could put greater strain on the state’s electric grid, financially burden consumers and drive businesses out of New York. Democrats in the state Legislature have pushed back on those arguments.
“The ban is set to go into effect for buildings under seven stories beginning Dec. 31, 2025, but it already is causing irreparable harm to plaintiffs today,” the petition states.
The state Department of State, named as a defendant in the lawsuit, declined to comment, citing pending litigation.
The legislation to phase out fossil fuels in new construction came amid the release of studies that found chemicals released by gas stoves have adverse health effects, including asthma. Ensuing debates over banning gas stoves briefly became a culture-war flashpoint.
The lawsuit’s plaintiffs include local, state and national trade associations representing builders, developers, plumbers and stakeholders in the gas and propane industry, as well as a collection of unions and small businesses affected by the ban.
“Our clients are strong supporters of the state’s climate goals, but the ban puts our clients and their members at risk, for little to no environmental benefit,” Sarah Jorgensen, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said in a news release. “It poses a serious threat to the livelihoods of thousands of New Yorkers.”
The EPCA, enacted in 1975 and amended since, sets national guidelines and standards for appliances’ energy efficiency.
The plaintiffs’ argument echoes a recent ruling from a three-judge panel in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which struck down a similar ban in Berkeley, Calif., citing the EPCA’s authority. It’s unclear whether that precedent will hold, however, as the city has filed a petition for a rehearing of the case with a larger 11-judge panel, and the administration of President Joe Biden has submitted an amicus (friend of the court) brief backing the city.
In that brief, the Biden administration contends the ruling is overbroad, and wrongly strips states and localities of their long-held authority to pass laws regarding health and safety. The administration argues that just because gas appliance bans may have “indirect” effects on the usage of products covered under federal law they are not preempted by the EPCA.
In the Berkeley case, the city also argued that it wasn’t regulating appliances’ energy efficiency, but the type of fuel they use — a rationale the trio of judges discarded.
“We are in full support of a green economy, but we should talk about how to transition without ruining lives,” Jimmy Russo, president of the Plumbing Contractors Association of Long Island, said in the plaintiffs’ statement released in conjunction with the court filing. “Our message to the lawmakers who passed this bill without thinking of our 600 members and their families on Long Island: enough is enough.”
New York’s ban was one of several measures passed in the state budget aimed at bringing the state closer to its ambitious emissions-reduction goals. Also among them was a “cap-and-invest” program that will require businesses to pay for emitting greenhouse gasses beyond an ever-decreasing threshold.
Gas appliance bans have taken off in cities across the country — including San Francisco, Denver, and Seattle — as well as in Washington state. In response, a number of Republican-controlled states have advanced legislation preventing municipalities from passing their own bans.
A ban on gas stoves in new construction in New York City is set to take effect later this year for buildings below seven stories.
If the court sides with the plaintiffs and shuts down New York’s ban, it could open others across the country to similar challenges, strengthening the precedent set in the Berkeley case. Officials in Washington have already voted to delay that state’s rule mandating electric heat pumps in new construction following the Berkeley ruling.
Food & Water Watch Northeast, a group championing the New York legislation, called the lawsuit “an archaic assault,” and urged the governor to stand strong against it.
“New York’s landmark ban on fossil fuels in new buildings is a victory for our communities, health and climate,” said Alex Beauchamp, a regional director of the group, in a statement. “Efforts to reopen this done and dusted issue amount to nothing more than a last-ditch effort to keep fossil fuels relevant in a changing world.”
The Gas Free NY coalition, which represents several organizations that supported the ban, also decried the new litigation in a statement Thursday.
“It hasn’t even been two weeks since fossil fueled flooding completely shut New York City down, marking the end of a summer defined by extreme heat and toxic orange skies,” the group said. “Don’t believe the wealthy fossil fuel industry’s lies – lives, livelihoods, and wallets are already hugely impacted by climate change, and the All-Electric Buildings Act is critical to protecting all of these for New Yorkers.”