No local governments in Louisiana will be permitted to ban natural gas utility services under a bill Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) signed Thursday.
The legislation (S.B. 492), which takes eeffect Aug. 1, comes as several states friendly to gas and oil industries approved similar measures earlier this year, including Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Arizona.
No municipalities in the state have proposed bans on natural gas so far. The bill is meant to preempt such action after Berkeley, Calif., became the first to ban natural gas hookups in new buildings last July. The Berkeley ban was put into effect to curb fossil fuel use.
State Sen. Stewart Cathey Jr. (R) introduced the legislation, and the state Senate unanimously approved it May 28. The Louisiana governor’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The bill was an important reflection of consumer choice, said Frank Maisano, founding partner of Washington, D.C.-based Policy Resolutions Group at Bracewell LLP. He has represented natural gas facilities
Maisano said it is important that Louisiana bar any future restrictions because natural gas has a “huge impact” on the state’s oil- and gas-dependent economy. It may also help open up the job market when states begin to reopen after the coronavirus pandemic, he said.
“You basically are preventing that advocacy-driven displacement of choices that consumers are making already,” he said. “They can have electric appliances if they want. It’s a preemptive step that sets certainty and creates a bar that protects consumers.”
Climate Change Impacts
Cherelle Blazer, a senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in Louisiana and Arkansas, said this bill is “dangerous” in a state heavily impacted by environmental issues.
“Louisiana is ground zero for climate change impacts in the U.S. so it’s extremely irresponsible and not good for the economy,” she said of the legislation.
Local governments should be able to choose whether to ban natural gas, Blazer said.
The Sierra Club has received funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable organization founded by Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg Law is operated by entities controlled by Michael Bloomberg.
Restaurants that are dependent on natural gas, especially in New Orleans, may also have contributed to the bill’s success, Maisano said.
The California Restaurant Association sued Berkeley after the city announced its ban, saying it caused restaurants to bear “the brunt of higher energy costs.”
“Not many have done what Berkeley has done. In fact, most have done very modified versions of it that really have very little impact,” Maisano said. “[The bans are] not as much a movement as you’re seeing on that side.”
But Blazer said the Berkeley ban has caused states in favor of oil and gas to enact legislation similar to the one in Louisiana out of fear bans on natural gas are likely to become more popular.