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Restrictions on natural gas may make construction harder

Not in my backyard. Zero population growth. Fight climate change. California is aflutter with buzz words like these as politicians, citizens and builders work out the state's future while development continues at a breakneck pace. Decisions can bring new laws that construction companies and contracts must know, and disputes can land unprepared parties in court.

Many new laws regarding construction make a slow start in the Golden State, with one or two prominent municipalities setting the tone for the future with an innovative law. Other cities or towns may adopt similar regulations, with some statewide laws growing out of these developments.

The West Coast is watching as Berkeley recently became the first city in California to ban natural gas pipes in most new buildings, effective at the beginning of 2020. A plan to avoid natural gas heating for space and water is already in effect with the state's university system.

The law is partially a response to Berkeley's self-declared climate emergency. Natural gas emissions account for nearly three-quarters of greenhouse gas emissions from the city's buildings. The transition to all-electric operations is supposedly cleaner, releasing far less carbon into the atmosphere.

Contractors may face new opportunities and risks if other parts of the Golden State follow suit. Current plans for buildings involving natural gas pipes may have to be altered, and costs for electric heating units may increase. An overview of the legal landscape in a municipality, including possible upcoming changes, is often a good business tool for builders.

Few are better suited to advising on this background than an attorney. Lawyers can work with construction companies and their managers to ensure their operations are acceptable to the cities and towns they work in, avoiding costly and time-consuming disputes in the future.

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