electric_car_charge.jpgA ruling by the California Public Utilities Commission regarding electric vehicle charging stations could be codified into law if officials approve legislation that was announced today in San Francisco by state Assemblywoman Fiona Ma.

Ma, D-San Francisco, announced Assembly Bill 631, which would place into law a decision by the CPUC to not regulate the charging stations as utilities.

The legislation would encourage the expanded use of electric cars throughout the state by clarifying the regulatory status of charging stations, Ma’s spokesman Nick Hardeman said.

Without the bill, businesses that installed the stations could be classified as utilities, which would make CPUC officials responsible for regulating how much it cost a person to charge their electric vehicle, Hardeman said.

The uncertainty over charging station regulations has been “one of the big obstacles of getting charging stations placed,” he said.

“If you’re a parking garage or mall or shopping center and want to put these charging stations in, you’re going to be subject to all the regulations a utility is subject to,” Hardeman said.

The bill is similar to one approved years ago that codified a CPUC decision to not regulate compressed natural gas as a public utility if used for transportation fuel, he said.

Ma announced the legislation at a news conference at her district office in San Francisco this afternoon. The event was supposed to be held outside City Hall, the location of some of the city’s charging stations, but had to be moved indoors because of rainy weather, Hardeman said.

The assemblywoman was joined by Melanie Nutter, director of San Francisco’s Department of the Environment, as well as other environmental and electric vehicle advocates.

Ma’s bill “will help make a vibrant EV market in California,” Nutter said in a statement. “Plug-in electric vehicles are the future of clean transportation, and we need to do everything we can to make it easy for cities, businesses and private citizens to site and install EV charging stations.”

The legislation has been referred to the state Assembly’s Utilities and Commerce Committee and is expected to be heard on April 11, Hardeman said.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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