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In re Adoption of Regulations for Electrical Inspection Authorities

Decided: March 18, 1974.

IN THE MATTER OF THE ADOPTION OF REGULATIONS FOR ELECTRICAL INSPECTION AUTHORITIES (PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION DOCKET NO. 725-438). MUNICIPAL ELECTRICAL INSPECTORS ASSOCIATION OF NEW JERSEY, PETITIONER-APPELLANT


Kolovsky, Fritz and Crane. The opinion of the court was delivered by Kolovsky, P.J.A.D.

Kolovsky

[127 NJSuper Page 297] This appeal attacks the validity of the several provisions of a regulation adopted by the Board of Public Utility Commissioners (Board) on April 12, 1973 which purport to regulate, control and limit the

powers of municipalities and counties, and electrical inspectors appointed by them, with respect to electrical inspections.

All parties agree that "electrical inspection" may properly be defined, as it is in the regulation, as "the act of investigating electrical construction, for the purpose of certifying conformance of such construction with applicable codes and regulations." Such compliance is obviously of concern not only to the public generally but also to the utility which is to furnish electricity and to the insurance company which may furnish insurance coverage on the structure.

Indeed, it is evident, from the legislation which first specifically authorized municipalities and counties to appoint electrical inspectors, that historically such public utilities and fire insurance companies required certificates of inspection from agencies approved by them before proceeding, respectively, to furnish electricity or to issue policies of insurance.

A chronological analysis of the statutes relating to the inspection of electrical work is necessary to an understanding and the resolution of the issues presented by this appeal.

We start with L. 1912, c. 271, as amended by L. 1923, c. 152, and supplemented by L. 1953, c. 69 (N.J.S.A. 40:173-1 through 3.2). Section 1 of the statute authorized "cities" to adopt ordinances

The section also requires the ordinance to prescribe: (1) the method of "location, arrangement, installation and use of

such wires and appliances"; (2) the duties of the inspector which section 2 authorizes the city to appoint; and the fee, not exceeding $50, to be paid for the inspection and the issuance of a certificate of inspection.

Section 2, authorizing the appointment of the inspectors by the city's governing body, provides that they "shall have a practical and technical knowledge of the construction and operation of interior electrical wiring and appliances."

Section 3 provides that upon the passage of such an ordinance, it shall be unlawful for any electrical utility company or insurance company to require or charge for an inspection other than that certified to by the city's inspector as a condition for supplying electricity or for insuring the building. Enforcement of the latter prohibitions is delegated to the Board of Public Utility Commissioners and the Department of Banking and Insurance, respectively.

Contrary to what appellant argues, the statutory authorization for such ordinances applies not to all municipalities but "only * * * to municipalities classified as cities." Independent Electricians, etc. Ass'n of N.J. v. Bd. of Examiners, Elec. Contr'rs, etc., 48 N.J. 413, 422, fn. 1 (1967).

In 1929 a similar statute (L. 1929, c. 339, N.J.S.A. 40:23-20 through 25) was enacted authorizing counties to adopt, by resolution, similar provisions for the regulation and inspection of electrical installations in any building in the county, the county being barred however from exercising such jurisdiction in any city which may have adopted the provisions of the 1912 statute above described. In all other respects the 1929 act was substantially identical with the 1912 act.

Thus, except in cities which had adopted ordinances pursuant to the 1912 statute and in counties which had adopted resolutions pursuant to the 1929 act, the situation was exactly as it was prior to the enactment of those statutes -- electric utility companies and insurance companies were free to require certificates of inspection from their own representatives or from agencies approved by them before, respectively,

furnishing electricity or issuing a policy. In cities or counties which had taken advantage of the 1912 or 1929 acts, electricity could not be furnished until a certificate had been issued by the appropriate governmental inspector.

The situation was not changed by the enactment of the Electrical Contractors Licensing Act of 1962, L. 1962, c. 162, amended by L. 1962, c. 185 (N.J.S.A. 45:5A-1 et seq.). The principal purpose of that act was to provide for the licensing of, and issuing of business permits to, electrical contractors by a State Board of Examiners of Electrical Contractors. See Independent Electricians, etc., Ass'n of N.J. v. Bd. of Examiners, Elec. Contr'rs, etc. 48 N.J. 413 (1967) and Independent Electricians, etc., Ass'n of N.J. v. N.J. Bd. of Examiners, etc., 54 N.J. 466 (1969).

The 1962 Licensing Act recognized the continued viability of at least the 1912 statute above referred to, except as the latter statute may have included the power to license ...


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