More on Electric Car Charging Stations – for Community Associations

A reader of  my post here sent me an e-mail message raising concerns about whether installing charging stations could make a community association an unlicensed electric power re-seller.  The reader raised an important issue.  As renewable/green energy infrastructure develops, so will statutes and regulations pertaining to it.  Any association interested in such things as electric vehicle charging stations or solar energy will want to be particularly sure to consult with legal counsel to ensure that contracts for such improvements address these evolving legal issues.   

 Specifically regarding electric vehicle charging stations in California, as part of its efforts to implement recently enacted Senate Bill 626 (requiring the PUC to develop policies to develop infrastructure for plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles) the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) very recently issued a decision that companies which sell electric vehicle charging services will not be regulated as public utilities pursuant to the Public Utilities Code and that, unless the charging station provider procures electricity on the wholesale market, utility sales of electricity to electric vehicle service providers do not constitute a “sale for resale” under the Federal Power Act.  In fact, the CPUC decision states, as a Conclusion of Law, that “condominium associations that provide electric vehicle charging on the premises as a service to the condominium owners . . . that have not dedicated their equipment to public use” are also not public utilities.  Notwithstanding this, the CPUC does, of course, have authority to dictate the terms under which the utility providing the electricity to power the charging stations provides service, so regulations requiring, for example, that customers notify a utility of anticipated increased connected load would need to be followed.  Again, it will be important for community associations installing charging stations to consult with legal counsel to address these issues during the contracting stage.

 With respect to rates, since the CPUC has decided that electric vehicle charging service providers will not be regulated as public utilities it will not be directly regulating the rates charged to use charging stations.  Insofar as the cost to purchase the electricity to power the charging station is regulated by the CPUC, however, and will be the largest business expense for the charging station’s owner (whether the association or a third party), the CPUC’s decisions regarding tariff rates will, of course, have an indirect impact.     

Failure to understand and address these sorts of regulatory issues can really throw a monkey wrench into the works of what should be a successful effort to “green” a community.  For example, earlier this year it was reported in local (Los Angeles area) media that a $25 million “solar farm” installed in the vast campus parking lots of a community college were sitting “unplugged”.  The solar equipment, owned by a third party, was intended to supply electricity to the Los Angeles Community College District via a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), but the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) would not agree to the arrangement, since the Los Angeles city charter bars the sale of power by any entity other than the DWP.  (This differs from state law pertaining to investor-owned utilities, which generally do approve PPAs).  Last I heard the LACCD was working on another financing arrangement, but these issues would, of course, have been more easily (and, I am sure, more cost effectively) addressed before the solar system was installed, not after.

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New Statutes California Business Owners Should Know About

Earlier this week, I wrote about new statutes California community association managers and board members should know about.  So, I thought I should also talk about new statutes California business owners should know about.  Surely our legislators put great effort into passing lots of legislation to materially improve the business climate in our economically hard hit state. 

Well, no, not really.  I suppose there is a silver lining, though.  At least the folks in Sacramento didn’t go out of their way to make the business climate even worse.

Better luck next year, I suppose.

In the meantime, what to blog about?  I’ve got it! 

Considering the impending Super Bowl game, you may be happy to hear that Assembly Bill 58 amended Penal Code Section 337a, and added Penal Code Section 336.9, to eliminate misdemeanor and/or felony criminal penalties for friendly sports betting pools.  That Super Bowl pool at work?  Now it is only punishable by a fine.  If the stakes are small enough.  Or it doesn’t fall under some other exception.  So okay, these new statutes aren’t perfect (not even for California).  And I should warn you to read the full text of the law yourself, if you are considering doing anything which it may pertain to, because it’s full of all sorts of complexities (and I know less about criminal law than most criminals do).  (You can find it at:  http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/09-10/bill/asm/ab_0051-0100/ab_58_bill_20090806_chaptered.pdf.)   

But it is nice to know that our state lawmakers spent their time on issues which are of such importance to our economy this past year.  I mean, in addition to these new Penal Code provisions, they also passed a law allowing a motor vehicle passenger to turn on a DVD screen in the front seat, as long as the driver can’t see it (Assembly Bill 62).  Oh, and California dentists are now prohibited from making credit arrangements with patients who are under anesthesia (Assembly Bill 171), which makes me wonder how widespread this practice was before (a scary thought). 

Tongue-in-cheek comments aside, there are a few new statutes which, depending upon the business you are in, could be important for you to familiarize yourself with.  If your business is a restaurant, remember that the ban on trans fats kicks in this year (okay, that’s still a bit sarcastic).  If you sell a product or service using recurring periodic fees or charges (an “evergreen clause”, for example), you must be careful to disclose the details and obtain your customer’s specific written consent (Assembly Bill 340).  If you do home remodeling or other contracting work, be very sure that you have the necessary license(s), as a first offense will now cost you up to a $5,000 fine and up to six months in jail (Assembly Bill 370).  And if yours is a small, home-based child care business (for six or less children), you must be licensed in pediatric first aid and CPR (Assembly Bill 1368), just like larger child care facilities.

New Statutes California Community Association Managers and Board Members Should Know About

One would have hoped that during 2009 California’s legislators would have had their hands full addressing our state’s budget crisis, but they did manage to squeeze in some time to amend and adopt legislation affecting community associations.  Listed below are the statutes which I believe will have the greatest impact on community associations, their managers, board members and residents.  Unless otherwise noted, all of the statutes listed below were adopted in 2009 and are effective as of January 1, 2010.

1.  If your association has a swimming pool or spa, you should already be familiar with the federal Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (15 USC 8001), requiring pools and spas to be retrofitted with anti-entrapment devices (drain covers meeting specified standards).  This Act became effective in December 2008, and pool retrofits should have been completed by January 1st of this year.  The federal Act includes a section establishing a grant program to assist States with enforcement, education and administration costs, but only States meeting the federal Act’s minimum State law requirements are eligible.  To meet those requirements, California Assembly Bill No. 1020, which amended Section 18942 of, and added Sections 116064.1 and 116064.2 to, the California Health and Safety Code, was passed.  The bill imposes standards both for newly constructed public swimming pools and for the retrofit of existing public swimming pools (and community association swimming pools and spas do fall within the definition of “public” swimming pools).  All pools and spas must be retrofitted by no later than July 1, 2010, unless they have already been retrofitted to comply with the federal Act.  Since both the federal Act and the new State legislation pertain to health and safety issues for children, it would be very poor risk management for an association to ignore this legislation. 

 2.  California Assembly Bill 1353.8 declares any governing document provision which prohibits, or has the effect of prohibiting, water-efficient landscaping to be void and unenforceable.  The governing documents of many California community associations would contravene this new legislation.  As noted in my prior posts regarding solar energy for community associations, it is reasonable to assume that California community associations will see much more legislation pertaining to such “green” issues in the near future.  (I predict that the next big thing will be clotheslines.)

 3.  Several new statutes pertaining to community associations’ disclosure obligations were passed during the last legislative session.  Board members and managers should review and familiarize themselves with the provisions of these new statutes, including:

     a.  Amended Civil Code Section 1350.7 and amended Corporations Code Section 20 (pertaining to electronic distribution of documents);

      b.  New Civil Code Section 1363.005 (which requires distribution of a statutorily proscribed “Disclosure Documents Index” at the request of any member);

      c.  New Civil Code Section 1365.2.5 (regarding new assessment and reserve funding disclosure requirements).

Feel free to contact me for a copy of the full text of these new statutes, or you can find them at http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/calaw.html.  In addition, I am always happy to meet, free of charge, with board members and managers, to discuss complying with the new statutes (or any other issue of concern to your community).

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