California lawmakers granted celebrity chef José Andrés’ restaurant a special exception to cook with gas stoves, and congressional Republicans are furious.
GOP politicians made that much clear on the House floor Tuesday afternoon as they repeatedly railed against California municipalities’ gas-hookup regulations — and what they described as California liberals’ hypocrisy — in a tense debate over their new favorite subject: gas stoves.
The House passed a bill titled the Gas Stove Protection and Freedom Act, which would prevent the Biden administration from enacting a ban on gas stoves, by a 248-180 vote on Tuesday, mostly along party lines. The administration has not announced any plans to ban the appliances.
But the GOP bill is a reaction to a real effort, pioneered by California towns and cities including Los Angeles, to ban new gas-line hookups in order to fight climate change and protect people from indoor air pollution.
The GOP’s gas stove legislation will have trouble making it to the floor of the Democrat-controlled Senate. But the bill allows Republicans to continue their public campaign to protect the appliances.
In their remarks on the House floor Tuesday, Republicans singled out the Golden State. Several slammed Palo Alto for imposing a gas-hookup ban but allowing Andrés an exemption from the rule after a property developer threatened to sue. The chef obtained the exemption for his new eastern Mediterranean restaurant Zaytinya on the grounds that gas is necessary to cultivate his unique flavors.
GOP Rep. Gus Bilirakis of Florida called the exemption for Andrés “a carveout from the left.”
“This celebrity chef and his wealthy, popular, national Democratic friends who aren’t giving up their gas stoves … these are the same exact people lecturing my constituents about climate change,” Rep. Bill Johnson of Ohio said.
Lawmakers in Berkeley kicked off the gas-hookup debate four years ago with a ban on new gas connections, which has been tied up in court ever since. A flurry of cities across the Golden State followed Berkeley’s lead, and the Los Angeles City Council voted in 2022 to ban most gas appliances in new construction.
Then Richard Trumka Jr., a Biden appointee to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, fueled GOP suspicions when he told Bloomberg News in January that a federal ban on new gas stoves was “on the table” — a statement the commission’s chair later walked back.
On the House floor, Republicans pointed to the California laws as examples of unfair progressive legislation, and said they don’t want policies like Berkeley’s gas-hookup ban to go national.
“While the progressive city of Palo Alto, Calif., has a natural gas ban for all new buildings and renovations — a policy that Democrats are trying to enact all over the country — the ban doesn’t apply to everybody,” Johnson said.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) stressed that Palo Alto’s exemption for Andrés would have been fine had it been granted to every resident.
“Surely we can all agree today to allow every hardworking person in this country, regardless of their income or celebrity status, to have the same freedom,” McMorris Rodgers said.
House Democrats reminded their GOP colleagues that the Biden administration had not formally proposed a ban on gas stoves. Most existing regulations on gas appliances apply to the construction of new buildings, and do not ban stoves that Americans are already using.
“The idea that anyone is coming in to American homes to remove gas stoves is ridiculous,” said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey. “They are not banning gas stoves. But these facts have not stopped supporters of this bill from touting this false narrative to scare consumers.”
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has approved a request for information in an effort to broaden its understanding of the potential health risks of gas stoves — and possible solutions to associated hazards. In a letter, Trumka wrote that the request “furthers our commitment to American consumers because step one in confronting a potential hazard is understanding its scope and the options for addressing it.”
The gas stove vote was among the first the House has taken since last week, when a group of conservatives halted all floor action in protest of Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s concessions during debt ceiling negotiations.
According to the most recent statewide survey by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California, just over 1 in 5 adults in the state approve of how Congress is doing its job — the lowest share in five years.