Regulatory Law

Goodin MacBride represents clients before California agencies that regulate electric and natural gas energy utilities, telecommunications providers, water utilities, and certain transportation companies. We also represent clients in appeals from regulatory agency decisions, and work with clients on legislative matters that affect regulatory law in California.

Energy

Our attorneys at Goodin MacBride have a great depth of expertise in California energy regulatory issues. We are active in the regulatory proceedings to transform California’s electricity portfolio to one powered entirely by renewable resources, to support California’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2045.

Our lawyers represent clients on a wide variety of topics in regulatory proceedings, including ratemaking for electric and natural gas utilities; infrastructure development, including development of transmission lines, renewable and fossil-fueled generation facilities, and gas storage fields; electric resource procurement; and programs to promote energy efficiency, demand response, smart grid technology, energy storage and renewable resource development.

Electricity

In California, electricity is regulated by the CPUC, the CEC, the CAISO, and the boards of municipal utilities and Community Choice Aggregators. These entities oversee the purchase of energy resources, including renewable energy and energy storage resources; programs to meet the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals; energy efficiency programs; the reliability of the electric grid; power plant and transmission line siting; and the rates customers pay for electricity. Goodin MacBride attorneys pursue our clients’ interests in all of these forums.

Cogeneration

Cogeneration, also known as combined heat and power (CHP), makes productive use of the heat that is a byproduct of many industrial processes to increase the efficiency of related thermal generation units. The firm’s attorneys advise and represent clients who develop and operate cogeneration units that are qualifying facilities or “QFs” under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act, as well as other CHP companies working within other regulatory structures. Goodin MacBride attorneys have been active in representing QF clients through many years of demanding litigation and regulatory proceedings related to QF pricing for generation in California.

Energy Storage

Goodin MacBride’s attorneys have advised clients on various aspects the emerging energy storage industry, on topics ranging from integrating storage with residential rooftop solar facilities to developing and obtaining regulatory approvals for large energy storage facilities that will help maintain the reliability of the electric grid, integrate increasing amounts of renewable energy into the electric system, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by improving the efficiency of the generation fleet.

Demand Response, Energy Efficiency

California led the nation in recognizing that reducing the demand for electricity can be the functional equivalent of increasing its supply. The ability to reduce demand is particularly important during emergencies or when high levels of demand complicate the operation of the electric transmission grid. The opening of wholesale markets to demand response providers has created new opportunities and has stimulated innovation in demand response technologies.

Goodin MacBride attorneys represent demand response providers who contract with utilities to provide reductions in demand at certain times and to organize electricity consumers to reduce demand when called on.

Transactions

Our firm assists in performing due diligence and analyzing legal and regulatory risks for companies seeking to acquire, finance, or invest in California energy companies of all types. In addition, we review and analyze power purchase agreements, and have advised clients on California regulatory issues for some of the most innovative structured financings in the industry. These include the Trans-Elect Path 15 Upgrade, the first privately financed transmission development project in North America.

EWG

Electricity can be generated using a variety of technologies in power projects of all sizes. Goodin MacBride works with independent renewable and conventional generators to negotiate power purchase agreements and interconnection agreements, and to navigate through the federal and state regulatory requirements that affect the economic and legal viability of generating plants. The firm also represents the Independent Energy Producers Association, the largest and oldest trade association of California independent generating companies.

Renewable Resources

Goodin MacBride has long been active in advising and representing the developers and operators of solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, small hydroelectric and other renewable resources. In addition to its representation of individual companies and projects, the firm advises and represents the oldest and largest trade association of California renewable energy producers. Renewable energy developers must negotiate a complex series of challenges in California, including contracts with utilities, interconnection arrangements, transmission development issues, and a host of other regulatory proceedings that can affect both the scope of the potential market for renewable resources and renewable generation’s net cost to customers. Goodin MacBride is capable of representing clients in every phase of the renewable development process, as well as in ongoing regulatory policy proceedings that renewable developers must actively follow.

Smart Grid

Our firm represents Smart Grid technology providers who can upgrade the ability of electric utilities’ distribution and transmission systems to communicate critical data about the operation of the grid, thereby generating substantial savings in reduced maintenance costs and increased efficiency.

A Smart Grid system can also communicate with end-use customers, their homes and appliances, substantially increasing energy efficiency and conservation by allowing customers to respond to peak period pricing signals, to participate in demand response programs, and to manage a wide variety of home appliances and heating and cooling systems. National energy policy is strongly encouraging the use of smart grid technologies where feasible, and Goodin MacBride has been involved in California smart grid development from the earliest efforts to bring this new technology to operation in the state.

Transmission

Goodin MacBride has provided key regulatory representation to independent transmission developers, such as Trans Elect and the Trans Bay Cable project, throughout their innovative privately financed transmission projects. We have also represented other stakeholders in major utility transmission cases, addressing a variety of issues, including siting and routing, environmental impacts and mitigation, and transmission planning.

We are experienced in the full range of regulatory issues related to the California Environmental Quality Act, and have handled environmental issues for both utilities and impacted land owners. We have represented transmission developers at the CAISO, obtaining Participating Transmission Owner status for these clients and facilitating their rate recovery through federally regulated CAISO access tariffs. Combined with our firm’s expertise in representing conventional and renewable generation clients, Goodin MacBride’s experience in transmission proceedings provides a comprehensive set of skills to help clients navigate the challenging environment for transmission development.

Energy Regulatory Agencies

Goodin MacBride attorneys practice before the full array of state and federal energy regulatory agencies. In California, our attorneys participate in all types of regulatory matters before the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Our attorneys also represent clients before the California Energy Commission (CEC), the California Air Resources Board (CARB), and the California Independent System Operator (CAISO). In addition, we have assisted our clients in proceedings before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) coordinates, controls and monitors the operation of the electric power transmission grid throughout most of California, and runs neutral markets for certain wholesale power transactions. Operating under the oversight of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), CAISO plays a key role in providing non-discriminatory access to the power grid for independent power producers and grid-scale energy storage projects.

Participation in the California power markets requires a clear understanding of CAISO operations and requirements. Goodin MacBride is well versed in the intricacies of the CAISO tariff and FERC regulations. The firm provides expert counsel to Participating Generators, Participating Transmission Owners, electric service providers (ESPs) or power marketers, scheduling coordinators (SCs), end users, and other market participants seeking to understand and comply with tariff requirements, negotiate power transactions, or be heard on important regulatory issues relating to CAISO.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is responsible for establishing and enforcing air quality standards and related matters. In consultation with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), California Energy Commission (CEC), and other state and local agencies, the CARB is charged with designing and carrying out a program to reduce statewide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020, pursuant to The California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32). CARB will also play a major role in achieving California’s statutory target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, and in reaching the state’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2045.

As part of its “Climate Change Scoping Plan, CARB has implemented a set of measures designed to enable California to meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals. These measures include, among other things, expanding existing energy efficiency programs, increasing the statewide renewables energy mix, and a cap-and-trade system that created market-based mechanisms to drive the most efficient, cost-effective means to comply with an overall cap on GHG emissions.

Goodin MacBride was involved in the AB 32 proceedings before the Legislature and provided key representation to interested parties in proceedings before the CPUC and CEC relating to the CARB scoping plan. The firm is well situated to assist alternative energy suppliers, commercial and industrial enterprises, the financial community, municipalities and other entities in ensuring that their interests are represented in all stages of CARB’s GHG reduction efforts. The firm can also help clients to understand the obligations and opportunities that lie ahead as the state moves toward achievement of its ambitious GHG reduction goals.

The California Energy Commission (CEC) is responsible for formulating California energy policy, setting energy efficiency standards, forecasting energy resource requirements, and analyzing options for meeting those needs. It has licensing authority over thermal power plants with a capacity of 50 megawatts or larger and associated transmission lines. It administers various renewables incentives programs, and carries out other activities relating to the establishment and promotion of efficient and sustainable energy production and use.

Working in conjunction with the California Public Utilities Commission, the CEC is charged with implementing California’s Renewables Portfolio Standard program, which calls for substantial increases in the role renewables play in meeting the retail energy load. The CEC is responsible for two key aspects of that program: certifying eligibility of renewable resources under the program, and establishing mechanisms to verify that claimed credits for use of renewables are accurate.

Goodin MacBride has considerable experience with the CEC’s various activities and can provide substantial assistance to clients in planning and achieving their objectives in proceedings at the CEC.

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires state and local government agencies to identify and take into consideration all potential environmental impacts before undertaking or approving permits for projects under their jurisdiction. The scope of impacts that must be considered is broad, including effects on historic, archaeological, and visual resources, as well as impacts on land, water, air, ambient noise levels, flora, fauna, minerals, and other resources.

Goodin MacBride is very experienced in guiding and representing stakeholders—project proponents, affected landowners, municipalities, and members of the general public—in matters involving compliance with CEQA. These matters include siting of renewable generation and energy storage facilities, electric transmission lines, telecommunications tower and antenna installations, and construction of other above-ground and below-ground energy and telecommunications facilities on private and public land.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has regulatory jurisdiction over all privately-owned energy public utilities, and limited authority over certain other energy market participants, such as non-utility electric service providers (ESPs) and Community Choice Aggregators (CCAs). The degree of regulation and influence the CPUC is authorized to exercise with respect to energy matters makes it the principal energy policy-implementing agency in the state. The CPUC’s decisions, orders, and regulations have substantial impacts on energy utilities, independent power producers and marketers, energy customers, and the state economy as a whole. This makes it imperative for stakeholders to have effective representation in CPUC proceedings affecting their interests.

Goodin MacBride is one of the preeminent law firms representing parties before the CPUC. Many of the firm’s partners have held senior positions at the CPUC in the past, and the firm has developed a unique working relationship with the Commissioners and staff at this important agency. Our experience and expertise extends to traditional energy ratemaking, gas and oil pipeline regulation, transmission line and other energy facility siting, independent power development and interconnection, renewables procurement, independent supply/direct access, energy efficiency programs, demand response, retail and wholesale energy sales agreements, line extensions, safety regulation, and virtually every other facet of energy regulation – from the perspectives of both regulated utilities and entities that interact and conduct business with utilities. These include commercial and industrial consumers, independent power producers, ESPs, energy storage developers, municipalities, and other stakeholders.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) exercises jurisdiction over wholesale electric sales transactions, electric power transmission, interstate gas resale and transmission, interstate oil pipeline transmission, and licensing of hydroelectric and liquefied natural gas facilities.

FERC policies and proceedings have considerable effect on the energy marketplace in California, indirectly affecting downstream prices charged to end users by public utilities that procure gas and electricity from wholesale sources. More significantly, FERC regulation of the functions and markets of the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), which controls the electric power transmission grid throughout most of California, has and will continue to have substantial impacts on the reliability of the grid and the availability to the California market of efficient, economically viable independent and renewable energy resources.

Goodin MacBride has long represented marketplace participants, including independent power producers, gas transmission providers, marketers and brokers, electric service providers, and commercial and industrial consumers, in matters and proceedings under the FERC’s jurisdiction. These include wholesale rate proceedings, wholesale gas and electric contracting, regulation of transmission access, rates, terms, and conditions, and qualifying facility certification under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978.

Independent Gas Storage

In 1997, the state of California adopted a policy encouraging independent gas storage providers to enter the market and compete against the storage services provided by the state’s large investor-owned utilities.

Goodin MacBride was successful in obtaining certification from the Public Utilities Commission for the state’s first independent storage provider. Through its continuing representation of the “front runner” in California’s independent gas storage market, attorneys at Goodin MacBride have been leaders in helping to shape state policy on the regulation of such entities, and in assuring increased competitive opportunities for independent providers.

Interstate natural gas pipelines are regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and not by state commissions. Yet representation of interstate pipelines at state agencies, such as the California Public Utilities Commission, is critical to ensure that state policy and/or individual state utility tariffs are not structured in a manner that impedes competition between the interstate pipes and the in-state pipeline systems. In addition, of critical importance to the interstate pipes is assurance that California has sufficient infrastructure to receive their gas, which might otherwise be effectively blocked at the border.

Attorneys at Goodin MacBride have represented several major interstate pipelines in their efforts to secure effective state policies for ensuring entry of their gas into the state and allowing gas-on-gas competition to occur within California, unimpeded by anti-competitive rate structures of in-state utilities.

The California Public Utilities Commission regulates the rates of all natural gas utilities in the state. The form of regulation is dependent, in large part, on whether the utility is viewed as an incumbent with monopoly power, or as a competitive entity with lack of market power. While the former will be assessed cost of service rates, the latter may be authorized to charge market-based rates.

Goodin MacBride’s experience in the area of rate regulation primarily comes on two fronts – obtaining and retaining market-based rates for competitive natural gas utilities, and assuring that the rates of the incumbent investor-owned utilities are not structured in a manner which affords them an unfair competitive advantage.

California Legislature

The California Legislature frequently considers legislation that can have powerful impacts on the energy and telecommunications regulated industries. As an example, the priorities of the entire electric utility industry have been reshaped by AB 32, the landmark legislation to require greenhouse gas reductions by electric utilities and other segments of the California economy.

Our firm works with a wide variety of clients, including government agencies, to monitor and analyze legislation, and to work with lobbyists to explain the impacts of legislation on customers, the business community and the state as a whole. Goodin MacBride attorneys have played key roles in drafting some of the most influential energy legislation of the past two decades.

Natural Gas

The California Public Utilities Commission is vested with broad regulatory authority over companies that own and operate natural gas facilities for profit in California. This jurisdiction covers, among others, natural gas producers, transporters, and storage providers as well as the gas utilities that provide natural gas to customers. The CPUC’s jurisdiction pertains to numerous areas of operation, including certification to provide service, rate regulation, terms and conditions of service, sales of assets, and issuance of debt.

Attorneys at Goodin MacBride represent the various types of companies that fall under the Commission’s natural gas jurisdiction, including pipelines, utilities, gas producers and independent gas storage providers. Our attorneys also represent a wide variety of natural gas customers, including industrial, municipal and electric generation clients. Several of our partners represented both state agencies and private clients throughout the evolution of the deregulated natural gas market. Goodin MacBride lawyers have the experience and the capability to achieve whatever Commission approval is needed for the furtherance of each client’s goals.

Allocation of Energy Costs to Commercial and Residential Tenants

The cost of energy is a significant expense for the owners of commercial and multi-family residential properties in California. Goodin MacBride has led the effort to remove archaic restrictions on the ability of those owners to allocate energy costs to tenants.

In 2004 and 2005, the firm successfully sought removal of decades-old utility tariff provisions barring that allocation. The removal of the restrictions not only benefitted the owners but, as the California Public Utilities Commission recognized, advanced the state’s energy conservation goals by reducing the provision of energy on a flat rates basis.

Goodin MacBride remains the state’s most experienced law firm with respect to questions involving allocation of energy costs by owners of commercial and residential multi-family properties, including issues arising out the cost of providing hot water through central boilers and the allocation of energy charges through non-metered means such as a Ratio Utility Billing System (“RUBS”).

Communications

The breakup of the Bell System in the early 1980s spawned a dramatic growth in the number and breadth of telecommunications providers. Goodin MacBride began representing competitive carriers and their trade associations over 25 years ago. Since then, we have maintained an extensive practice representing both the wireline and wireless components of the competitive industry.

Goodin MacBride played a significant role in proceedings where much of the current regulatory framework governing telecommunications was developed. For example, the firm, on behalf of its clients, largely drafted the current rules governing Commission approval for mergers and acquisitions of these entities. Goodin MacBride has played a major role in consumer protection regulation as well as ongoing proceedings which seek to conform regulation to the changing needs of customers seeking to acquire and develop the latest telecommunications technology.

Broadband

California is strongly encouraging the spread of broadband access to more communities throughout the state, including rural and low-income communities. Broadband access can be provided over multiple media, including wireless, cable networks, and possibly even electric distribution lines.

Goodin MacBride regulatory attorneys represent many clients with networks that are directly engaged in increasing broadband access in California. Equally important are the regulatory consequences of intervention in network development. Many of our clients advocate policies that resist increased regulation of broadband service providers in California. Our attorneys have frequently assisted in explaining how market-oriented policies have fostered the multiple forms of telecommunications network competition, bringing California customers more choices and more competitive options.

Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs)

The competitive telecommunications industry in California, and elsewhere is subject to a complex, rapidly-changing combination of special laws and regulations. The complexity lies not only in the way they address tax, consumer protections, service provisioning, contracting, and other regulatory issues, but also in whether or not they apply at all to particular service providers or services.

Data and voice service providers, including Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs) and interexchange carriers (IXCs or IECs), whether using their own facilities or providing service on a pure resale basis, may be subject to regulation by either the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) or the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), or both.

Often service providers furnish a mix of services. Some of these are currently subject to regulation based on California state or federal law. Others are currently exempt from special regulation. Goodin MacBride attorneys are highly experienced in assisting service providers in navigating this changing landscape and in providing quality, affordable counsel and representation in the regulatory and legal matters that affect them in California.

Our regulatory attorneys have represented regulated and unregulated industry participants for over 25 years in proceedings before the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and Federal Communication Commission (FCC). These include transactions and disputes involving commercial end users; major equipment vendors; sales agents; wholesale services and interconnection; access to conduit and other private and public rights-of-way; asset transfers; and construction of fiber optic facilities. Our lawyers’ work has encompassed tax compliance law and enforcement issues, and a myriad of other matters affecting members of the telecommunications industry in California.

Mergers and Acquisitions

Transfer of control or sale of the assets of a utility regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) requires prior CPUC approval, without which an entire merger/acquisition transaction is deemed void. The timing and processing of the required prior CPUC approval for mergers and acquisitions can, particularly in the case of contested proposals, raise complex issues that Goodin MacBride attorneys are well equipped to handle, based on years of experience with California law and regulations, and in representing both sellers and buyers of utilities or their assets.

California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Enforcement

Goodin MacBride attorneys have substantial experience in representing telecommunications carriers that may be subject to enforcement actions by the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) Consumer Protection and Safety Division. Such enforcement actions may relate to failure to comply with California Public Utilities Commission orders, rulings, or regulations, and, in the case of large telecommunications providers, may involve potential liability for fines or refunds of millions of dollars.

Goodin MacBride attorneys have held senior positions within the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) Legal and Administrative Law Judge Divisions. With this experience, our lawyers are well prepared to represent carriers in high stakes enforcement actions to preserve their rights and obtain a positive result for the client.

Siting and CEQA

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires state and local government agencies to identify and take into consideration all potential environmental impacts before undertaking or approving permits for projects under their jurisdiction. The scope of impacts that must be considered is broad, including effects on historic, archaeological, and visual resources, as well as impacts on land, water, air, ambient noise levels, flora, fauna, minerals, and other resources.

Goodin MacBride attorneys have significant experience in guiding and representing stakeholders, such as project proponents, affected landowners, municipalities, and members of the general public, in regulatory matters involving compliance with CEQA. These include siting of electric transmission lines, telecommunications tower and antenna installations, and construction of other above-ground and below-ground energy and telecommunications facilities on private and public land in California.

Wireless

In the key areas of rates and market entry, Commercial Mobile Radio Service (CMRS or “wireless carriers”) are regulated at the federal level. However, “terms and conditions” of such service can be the subject of state jurisdiction. The State of California has been very active in its attempts to extend its regulatory authority over wireless carriers and has initiated several rulemakings over the years for that purpose.

Attorneys at Goodin MacBride have been instrumental in shaping and defining the regulation of wireless carriers at the state level in California. Through its coordination of CTIA-The Wireless Association®, the nation’s largest wireless trade association, our lawyers have successfully assisted wireless carriers in obtaining California state regulatory policies that are consistent with continued growth and innovation in the wireless market, while continuing to provide more services and improved technology for consumers at lower rates.

Resources

Water

The California Public Utilities Commission (“CPUC”) regulates privately-owned water and sewer utilities. Of all the utilities regulated by the CPUC, water companies, more than any other type of utility, are regulated in a manner similar to the fashion in which they were regulated 50 years ago. With limited exceptions, CPUC decisions related to water remain the only CPUC decisions subject to review only by the California Supreme Court.

The CPUC’s responsibilities include the investigation of water and sewer system service quality issues; analysis and processing of utility rate change requests; review of terms and conditions under which water service is provided to new residential and commercial developments; and approval of any sale or transfer of control of a privately-owned water or sewer utility. In recent years, of course, much of the CPUC’s focus has been on addressing the consequences of diminished water supply arising from drought conditions, including consequences arising from the Legislature’s enactment of the California Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (“SGMA”) in 2014.

Goodin MacBride has represented CPUC-regulated water companies, government entities operating water systems, developers seeking extensions of water service into new projects and homeowners associations.

The firm has participated in a number of unique proceedings addressing the CPUC’s regulation of water. The firm assisted a large state water project contractor, a government body, in its unprecedented, but successful, effort to acquire the stock (rather than the assets) of a large CPUC regulated water company through eminent domain.

In a case that resulted in the first reversal of a CPUC decision by the California Supreme Court in twenty years, the firm a represented a water district in Monterey County in its efforts to restore, over the CPUC’s objections, the District’s critical user fee to the monthly bill of CPUC regulated water company Monterey Peninsula Water Management District v. Public Utilities Commission , 62 Cal. 4th 693 2016 Cal. LEXIS 45 (January 25, 2016)

Issues for Property Developers

Goodin MacBride has broad experience with the issues that arise when a property developer seeks an extension of water service by a CPUC regulated water provider.

Planned residential or commercial development requires demonstration of the availability of water service, typically in the form of a “ready to serve” letter from the local utility water system in California. Goodin MacBride attorneys can assist in obtaining the necessary commitments to serve, and in memorializing the terms and conditions governing the provision of the required water and sewer services.

The firm can also assist the developer in resolving other important issues related to the extension of water service(1) availability and reliability of water supply; (2) cost of and responsibility for interconnection of available water supply and delivery system and (3) requirements for special facilities, e.g. new storage for fire protection.

Transportation

In the early 20th Century, reformist Governor Hiram Johnson created the California Railroad Commission to check the power of the railroads. In 1945, it was renamed the “California Public Utilities Commission”, today’s CPUC. For the first 60 years, its principal charge was to regulate the intrastate transportation of passengers and property by rail, truck, vessel or airplane.

Over time, Congress has preempted much of the CPUC’s jurisdiction over transportation. The CPUC, however, retains broad regulatory authority over companies that provide (1) ground or vessel transportation of passengers and (2) transportation of freight by vessel.

Airport shuttle vans, tour buses, commuter buses and ferries, freight vessels, limousines and the newest market participants, Transportation Network Companies (“TNC’s”) such as Uber and Lyft all operate pursuant to authority granted by the CPUC.

The CPUC also has the final say over the construction of rail crossings (or grade separations) throughout California, and limited jurisdiction over the operations of even government-operated light rail systems such as the Bay Area Rapid Transit System (BART). In addition, rail safety is regulated by the CPUC, which is active in the investigation of any significant railroad accident.

For over 20 years, Goodin MacBride attorneys have specialized in myriad regulatory issues related to CPUC regulation of transportation in California, including representation of the largest airport ground transportation provider in the United States.

Airport Transportation

Thirty years ago, a system of large buses and taxicabs dominated the provision of transportation to and from airports in California. Today that large passenger market is principally served by (1) shuttle vans (eight to fifteen passengers) providing “on-call” shared-ride service and (2) “TNCs” (addressed below).

Over that thirty years, Goodin MacBride attorneys have playing a critical role in this transition by representing the largest airport ground transportation provider in the United States. We have addressed a multitude of regulatory issues including initial licensing, service area expansion, rate flexibility and approval for mergers and acquisitions of regulated carriers.

Transportation Licensing and Enforcement

The CPUC strictly enforces the licensing requirements it administers under California law. At the outset, failure to hold the required certificate or permit can result in fines and, in most cases, will result in an order from the CPUC or local law enforcement officials to cease operations immediately The CPUC also investigates allegations of consumer fraud by the companies, and has the power to order refunds, impose fines or revoke licenses in California.

Many companies (hotels, ski resorts, parking facility operators and hiking and canoe companies) provide transportation only as an incident to their primary business. For these types of enterprises, the CPUC’s enforcement of licensing requirements can come as an unexpected, unpleasant and expensive surprise. Accordingly, in addition to its ongoing representation of companies who offer transportation as their primary business, Goodin MacBride frequently assists companies in the hospitality and tourism industries that have encountered difficulties with maintaining proper CPUC licensing.

Sale of Transportation Companies

Goodin MacBride attorneys have extensive experience obtaining the requisite CPUC authority for the sale of a regulated transportation provider (whether stock or assets), or the merger of one company with another. Our attorneys played a central role in developing the rules by which the CPUC may in certain cases provide the required approval on an expedited basis.

Transportation Network Companies (“TNCs”)

The CPUC regulates all passenger carriers, such as limousine services, airport shuttles and intrastate bus lines. Virtually all forms of passenger transportation for which compensation is paid (except taxi cabs which are subject to municipal regulation) are subject to the CPUC’s jurisdiction – even many sightseeing tours or other tourist/recreation forms of transportation in California.

The fastest growing market for passenger transportation is that served by Transportation Network Companies (“TNCs”), the most well-known of which are Uber and Lyft. Moreover, many new market entrants are experimenting with novel methods of employing passenger charter party authority form the CPUC (“TCP” authority) to develop innovative new products for passengers. Goodin MacBride has assisted many of these entities as they seek to offer lower priced services to passengers while meeting the requirements of current governing statutes (some of which were first enacted fifty years or more ago).

Our lawyers have also represented transportation providers seeking to navigate the complex set of rules related to the use of independent contractors in lieu of employees, as well as insurance documentation.

Safety Requirements

Whether a passenger carrier’s fares are subject to CPUC regulation will depend on the specific nature of the service. But every carrier must properly document its satisfaction of liability insurance requirements as well as requirements related to the drivers of the vehicles (drug testing requirements and the enrollment of their drivers in the “pull notice” program of the California Department of Motor Vehicles). These requirements are strictly enforced. The CPUC staff will order companies to cease operations immediately if the proper documentation is not in place. Goodin MacBride attorneys have extensive experience working with the CPUC, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and the California Highway Patrol (CHP) assisting carriers in ensuring that their operations conform to Commission requirements, and in avoiding operational interruptions in California.

Passenger and Freight Vessels

Many passenger ferries are owned by a public districts such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District. Others are owned by private companies and are regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Those ferries must obtain CPUC approval before operating on any specific route and may only charge rates that have been approved by the CPUC. (Ferries providing solely round trip service or charter service are no longer subject to CPUC regulation.) Water taxis, depending their ownership and the form of service they provide, may also be regulated by the CPUC. As bridges and highways become more congested, the market for vessel services (ferries and water taxis) is expected to grow.

Goodin MacBride attorneys have assisted the operators of both passenger and freight vessels seeking to obtain the required operating authority form the CPUC.

Trains

Federal authorities regulate most aspects of rail operation. But the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which was initially established a century ago to regulate rail service, still has jurisdiction over significant aspects of it. Even certain publicly owned rail systems like Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) in Northern California and publicly owned systems in Southern California are subject to CPUC jurisdiction with respect to safety-related issues.

Additionally, the CPUC must approve all rail crossings in California. Goodin MacBride attorneys have represented municipalities and other affected parties in connection with rail operations in California.

Climate Change

Our attorneys’ climate change practice includes advising and representing the developers and operators of renewable electric generating plants and energy storage facilities; tracking the development of California’s ambitious program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (AB 32); and advising clients on how to comply with greenhouse gas-related regulations. We also alert clients to business opportunities and cost-reduction strategies arising from cap-and-trade markets for greenhouse gas emissions allowances and tradable renewable energy credits.

In addition, the our attorneys work with “clean tech” firms to find business opportunities in the emerging markets created by governmental efforts to combat global warming in California.

Biomass

Biomass is a renewable generation resource that uses a variety of natural fuels to generate energy, including wood chips, rice hulls, and natural gas recovered from landfills or from digesters that process cow manure. Biomass projects require representation in order to deal with regulatory issues such as interconnection with the utility grid, access to transmission lines, utility procurement procedures and renewable energy solicitations.

Our attorneys at Goodin MacBride are well positioned to assist biomass project developers since we have extensive experience representing generators of all types, including the full spectrum of renewable energy technologies.

Cogeneration

Cogeneration, also known as combined heat and power (CHP), makes productive use of the heat that is a byproduct of many industrial processes to increase the efficiency of related thermal generation units. The firm’s attorneys advise and represent clients who develop and operate cogeneration units that are qualifying facilities or “QFs” under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act, as well as other CHP companies working within other regulatory structures. Goodin MacBride attorneys have been active in representing QF clients through many years of demanding litigation and regulatory proceedings related to QF pricing for generation in California.

Demand Response, Energy Efficiency

California led the nation in recognizing that reducing the demand for electricity can be the functional equivalent of increasing its supply. The ability to reduce demand is particularly important during emergencies or when high levels of demand complicate the operation of the electric transmission grid. The opening of wholesale markets to demand response providers has created new opportunities and has stimulated innovation in demand response technologies.

Goodin MacBride attorneys represent demand response providers who contract with utilities to provide reductions in demand at certain times and to organize electricity consumers to reduce demand when called on.

Greenhouse Gas Regulation

California’s ambitious program to reduce the level of emissions of greenhouse gases (AB 32) creates both compliance challenges and business opportunities. The firm’s attorneys have been involved in the development and implementation of the AB 32 regulations at the California Air Resources Board, and in related regulatory activities at the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Energy Commission.

The firm’s attorneys are familiar with the cap-and-trade regulatory model adopted in California and the compliance issues that arise for entities that are subject to greenhouse gas emissions requirements.

Renewable Resources

Goodin MacBride has long been active in advising and representing the developers and operators of solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, water and other renewable resources in California. In addition to our attorneys’ representation of individual companies and projects, the firm’s lawyers advise and represent the oldest and largest trade association of California renewable energy producers.

Renewable energy developers must negotiate a complex series of challenges in California, including contracts with utilities, transmission issues, and a host of other regulatory requirements. Goodin MacBride’s attorneys are capable of representing clients in every phase of the renewable development process, as well as in ongoing regulatory policy proceedings.

Photovoltaic (PV) Solar

With the signing of Senate Bill 100, California set a policy goal that the state’s investor owned utilities, non-utility Electric Service Providers, and Community Choice Aggregators must procure 100 percent of their energy from renewable resources by 2045. Solar energy is poised to continue to play a large part in the state meeting its renewables goal.

Attorneys at Goodin MacBride have been representing the interests of solar photovoltaic manufacturers, integrators, installers and financiers for many years, and have been instrumental in shaping various programs, tariffs, and policies aimed at expanding and providing incentives to the industry. Goodin MacBride attorneys have advised clients involved in all aspects of the photovoltaic solar industry, from companies and trade associations focusing on installation of residential rooftop solar panels to the developers of large grid-scale solar facilities.

Solar Thermal

Solar Thermal technology uses the sun’s energy to heat a fluid used to generate electricity, usually through the use of a heat exchanger and a steam turbine. Solar thermal generation projects can use water, liquid sodium or other fluids to accumulate the heat and transfer it to the heat exchanger. There, the heated fluid turns water into steam, which drives the turbine and generates electricity.

Solar thermal plants require significant acreage to locate their solar collectors. These facilities are often located in remote areas of California, and face significant regulatory issues associated with access to transmission. As renewable generators, they can benefit from our attorneys’ experience in negotiating interconnection and access agreements with the utilities, and assisting renewable generators who participate in utility procurement solicitations.

Wind

The firm’s attorneys have been active in the development of wind energy facilities in California since the origin of this industry in the 1980s. We advise and represent clients who develop and operate qualifying facilities (“QFs”) under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act, as well as facilities designed to help California achieve the goals of its Renewables Portfolio Standard. Wind developers also require regulatory representation in proceedings to address transmission development, since wind resource areas are frequently distant from the utilities’ major load centers.

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