Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Utilities Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the North Carolina Utilities Commission addressing Dominion Energy North Carolina's application for a general increase in its North Carolina retail rates, holding that Dominion's challenges to the Commission's order were unavailing.In the order at issue, the Commission authorized Dominion to calculate its North Carolina retail rates by, inter alia, amortizing certain costs. Dominion appealed, arguing that the Commission acted capriciously and arbitrarily in failing to follow applicable precedent. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission's order was supported by competent, substantial evidence and that the Commission adequately explained the basis for the portions of its decision that Dominion challenged on appeal. View "State ex rel. Utilities Commission v. Virginia Electric & Power Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Public Service Commission (PSC), which approved the application of Black Hills Nebraska Gas, LLC seeking an enlargement or extension of its natural gas mains in Sarpy County, holding that there was no error.On appeal, the Metropolitan Utilities District (MUD) contended that Black Hills' application was contrary to a 2010 order that MUD argued conclusively established that it was in the public interest for MUD to provide natural gas service to the area at issue in the application. The Supreme Court disagreed and affirmed, holding that the PSC had authority to determine the public interest with respect to the current application. View "In re Application No. P-12.32 of Black Hills Nebraska Gas, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Houston voters approved “Proposition One,” allowing the city to create a “Pay-As-You-Go” Dedicated Drainage and Street Renewal (DDSR) Fund. Perez and others filed an election contest while the city enacted the Drainage Fee Ordinance (DFO), creating a new public utility and requiring Houston to establish drainage fees “against all real property in the city subject to such charges” and “provide drainage for all real property in the city on payment of drainage charges unless the property is exempt.” The DFO based the drainage fees on the benefited property’s type and square footage. Failure to pay drainage fees carried various penalties.In 2015, the Supreme Court held that Proposition One’s ballot language was misleading, rendering the Amendment invalid. Perez then challenged Houston’s assessment, collection, and expenditure of the drainage fee. In 2018, Houston passed a new charter amendment curing many of the defects Perez alleged in the drainage fee ordinance. Perez was left with ongoing claims for reimbursement of the drainage fees she paid before 2018 and for an injunction against the future expenditure of fees collected before 2018. The Texas Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of those claims but remanded to allow Perez to replead in light of intervening events. Perez’s claims required her to articulate a viable theory of the DFO’s illegality to overcome Houston’s governmental immunity; her only theory failed as a matter of law. View "Perez v. Turner" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing North Star Development, LLC's petition for judicial review of the Montana Public Service Commission's (PSC) August 2020 rate determination regarding North Star's 2019 application for water and sewer utility rate increase authorizations, holding there was no error.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the district court correctly concluded that North Star failed to exhaust all available administrative remedies, as required by Mont. Code Ann. 2-4-702(1)(a); (2) the correct jurisdictional basis for dismissal of a petition for judicial review due to failure to exhaust administrative remedies is a lack of procedural justiciability rather than lack of subject matter jurisdiction; and (3) the district court did not commit reversible error by failing to consider North Star's asserted waiver and equitable estoppel defenses. View "North Star Development, LLC v. Montana Public Service Commission" on Justia Law

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The Oklahoma Development Finance Authority petitioned the Oklahoma Supreme Court to approve the issuance of ratepayer-backed bonds pursuant to the February 2021 Regulated Utility Consumer Protection Act, 74 O.S.2021, ch. 110A-1, sections 9070-9081. The Oklahoma Development Finance Authority sought to issue bonds to cover the debt incurred by Summit Utilities Oklahoma from unprecedented fuel costs during a February 2021 winter weather event. Summit Utilities’ ratepayers would then fund the bond payments through a monthly charge. The ratepayer-backed bonds would allow customers to pay their utility bills at a lower amount over a longer period of time. No protestants challenged the proposed bonds. The Supreme Court assumed original jurisdiction and held that the ratepayer-backed bonds were properly authorized under the Act and were constitutional. View "In the Matter of the Application of the Oklahoma Development Finance Authority" on Justia Law

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The Oklahoma Development Finance Authority petitioned the Oklahoma Supreme Court to approve the issuance of ratepayer-backed bonds pursuant to the February 2021 Regulated Utility Consumer Protection Act, 74 O.S.2021, ch. 110A-1, sections 9070-9081. The Oklahoma Development Finance Authority sought to issue bonds to cover the debt incurred by Public Service Company of Oklahoma from unprecedented fuel costs during a February 2021 winter weather event. Public Service Company of Oklahoma's ratepayers would then fund the bond payments through a monthly charge. The ratepayer-backed bonds would allow customers to pay their utility bills at a lower amount over a longer period of time. No protestants challenged the proposed bonds. The Supreme Court assumed original jurisdiction and held that the ratepayer-backed bonds were properly authorized under the Act and were constitutional. View "In the Matter of the Application of the Oklahoma Development Finance Authority" on Justia Law

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The Oklahoma Development Finance Authority petitioned the Oklahoma Supreme Court to approve the issuance of ratepayer-backed bonds pursuant to the February 2021 Regulated Utility Consumer Protection Act, 74 O.S.2021, ch. 110A-1, sections 9070-9081. The Oklahoma Development Finance Authority sought to issue bonds to cover the debt incurred by Oklahoma Natural Gas Company from unprecedented fuel costs during a February 2021 winter weather event. Oklahoma Natural Gas Company's ratepayers would then fund the bond payments through a monthly charge. The ratepayer-backed bonds would allow customers to pay their utility bills at a lower amount over a longer period of time. Protestants challenged the proposed bonds on several grounds, focusing on the constitutionality of the bonds. The Supreme Court assumed original jurisdiction and held that the ratepayer-backed bonds were properly authorized under the Act and were constitutional. View "In the Matter of the Application of the Oklahoma Development Finance Authority" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the rulings of the Public Service Commission of West Virginia's (PSC) final order and its order denying the City of Wheeling's (Wheeling) petition for reconsideration and motion to stay, holding that the PSC had jurisdiction over the dispute when it issued its final order and that there was no error in the PSC's decision.After the City of Benwood brought an action challenging Wheeling's revised rate for sewer treatment services the PSC began an investigation. In its final order, the PSC recalculated the revised rate for Wheeling's sewer treatment services. Wheeling then filed a petition for reconsideration and a motion to stay, arguing that the PSC lacked subject matter jurisdiction when it issued the final order. The PSC denied Wheeling's petition and motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below. View "City of Wheeling v. Public Service Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order entered by the district court granting Big Foot Dumpsters & Containers, LLC's motion to dismiss this action as moot following Big Foot's withdrawal of its application for a garbage hauling certificate from the Montana Public Service Commission (PSC), holding that there was no error.Big Foot filed an application for a Class D carrier certificate of public convenience or necessity to haul garbage in Flathead County. Ultimately, Big Foot requested an order allowing the withdrawal of its application and sought dismissal of the action. The district court granted dismissal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err by concluding that the case was mooted; and (2) the district court did not err by failing to apply any exception to the mootness doctrine. View "In re Class D Application of Big Foot" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed this appeal from an order of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) declining to open a formal investigation into a water bill issued to General Marine Construction Corp. by the Portland Water District (PWD), holding that General Marine's appeal was not taken from a final decision of the Commission pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 35-A, 1320(1).At issue was a $15,804 "make-up bill" that the PWD issued to General Marine for unauthorized and unmilled water usage. General Marine filed a complaint challenging the bill. The Commission's Consumer Assistance and Safety Division (CASD) concluded that the PWD had complied with PUC rules in issuing the make-up bill. The Commission upheld CASD's decision. General Marine appealed. The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed the appeal, holding (1) the PUC did not issue a "final decision" at the conclusion of the statutorily-authorized informal process; and (2) therefore, section 1320(1) did not authorize General Marine's appeal. View "General Marine Construction Corp. v. Public Utilities Commission" on Justia Law