Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Utilities 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

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court affirming the decision of the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approving the application filed by Crowned Ridge Wind II, LLC for a permit to construct a large-scale wind energy farm in northeast South Dakota, holding that there was no error.Several individual intervened in this case and objected to Crowned Ridge's application. After an evidentiary hearing, the PUC voted unanimously to approve Crowned Ridge's permit. The circuit court affirmed the issuance of the permit. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the intervenors failed to raise any meritorious issues upon which the PUC's final decision and order may be reversed or modified. View "Ehlebracht v. Crowned Ridge Wind II, LLC" on Justia Law

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LSP, an independent electric transmission developer, bids on proposals to build transmission projects throughout the U.S. LSP sought judicial review of a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) decision under 16 U.S.C. 824e concerning ISO New England’s compliance with Commission Order 1000, which required “the removal from Commission-jurisdictional tariffs and agreements” of rights of first refusal to construct transmission facilities and directed incumbent transmission providers to engage in competitive selection of developers. FERC recognized an exception if the time needed to solicit and conduct competitive bidding would delay the project and thereby threaten system “reliability.” FERC found “insufficient evidence” that ISO was incorrectly implementing Order 1000.The D.C. Circuit denied LSP’s petition for judicial review, first holding that FERC’s ruling bears all the indicia of a substantive decision produced after a contested proceeding involving ISO and numerous intervenors and is subject to judicial review. The court found nothing irrational in FERC’s response to LSP’s general criticism of ISO’s use of more conservative assumptions regarding its system capacity and future management in determining when to apply the exception. Although the number of reliability projects exempted from competitive bidding exceeded those open to competition, the appropriate balance between competitive procurement and quick redress of reliability needs is a policy judgment for FERC. View "LSP Transmission Holdings II, LLC v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit agreed with the district court that sovereign immunity bars the ratepayers' claims against the Mississippi Public Service Commissioners. The court also agreed that the Johnson Act does not preclude federal jurisdiction over the claims against the utility. However, the court disagreed with the accrual date the district court used in dismissing the case on limitations grounds. The court explained that the ratepayers' claims did not accrue on August 6, 2015, when the Commission approved the refund plan, or on August 16, 2016, when an economist concluded that Mississippi Power shorted them. The court affirmed the dismissal of the claims against the Commissioners but vacated the district court's dismissal of the claims against Mississippi Power on imitations grounds. Given the uncertainties in the record and the possible benefit of limited discovery on the limitations issue, the court remanded to the district court for further proceedings. View "Turnage v. Britton" on Justia Law

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The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) awarded “incentive adders,” upward adjustments to utilities’ rate of return on equity, to three California-based public utilities. FERC regulations allow for incentive adders to induce voluntary membership in independent system operators. The Ninth Circuit previously concluded that FERC improperly awarded incentive adders to PG&E without considering the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) assertion that PG&E’s membership in the California independent system operator (CAISO) is mandated. The court directed FERC to “inquire into PG&E’s specific circumstances, i.e., whether it could unilaterally leave the C[AISO].” On remand, FERC concluded that membership in CAISO is voluntary.The Ninth Circuit upheld the decision, holding that its previous decision did not resolve whether California law prevented the utilities from leaving CAISO without approval. FERC did not deviate from the mandate on remand. There was no error in FERC’s conclusion that membership in CAISO was voluntary despite a contrary suggestion in a CPUC 1998 Decision. FERC was not required to apply the Erie doctrine and defer to California’s interpretation. The incentive adder and its requirements arose from federal law. The California Supreme Court has not decided whether membership in CAISO is voluntary; no California Code provision mandates CAISO membership, and no case law discusses whether CAISO members must remain such. California courts would not defer to the CPUC’s 1998 Decision because it was inconsistent with the statute. View "California Public Utilities Commission v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed a portion of the utility regulatory commission's order that approved in part Duke Energy's request to increase its rates for retail consumers, holding that, absent specific statutory authorization, a utility cannot recoup its past costs adjudicated under a prior rate case by treating the costs as a capitalized asset.In 2020, the commission granted Duke's petition for a rate increase in part permitting Duke to recover about $212 million for coal-ash site closures, remediation, and financing costs, with the bulk of the costs having been incurred from 2015 to 2018. At issue was whether the commission could approve reimbursement for a deferred asset without violating the statutory bar against retroactive ratemaking. The Supreme Court answered in the negative, holding that the commission acted without statutory authority in re-adjudicating expenses already governed by a prior rate order. View "Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor v. Duke Energy Indiana, LLC" on Justia Law

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This case stems from a dispute over how to allocate the costs of high-voltage facilities to transmit electricity within the mid-Atlantic planning region. At issue is a contested settlement covering high-voltage projects approved between 2007 and 2013. LIPA and Linden petitioned for judicial review and several transmission owners and state regulatory commissions, as well as PJM, have intervened in support of FERC.The DC Circuit rejected LIPA and Linden's contention that the settlement order and its hybrid allocations are arbitrary. Rather, each formula in the settlement is just and reasonable and is therefore reason enough to uphold it. Furthermore, the court noted that FERC reasonably concluded LIPA and Linden would not have done better through litigation. The court rejected the utilities' contention that the approval was inconsistent with the Seventh Circuit's decisions, with FERC's own precedent, and with an underlying cost-causation principle. The court agreed with Linden that, under the settlement, it need not make any of the payments set forth in the historical formula. Therefore, the court set aside FERC's ruling that Linden must pay Transmission Enhancement Charge adjustments and remanded for further proceedings. The court denied the petitions for review in all the respects. View "Long Island Power Authority v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approving a power purchase agreement (PPA) between Maui Electric Company, Limited (MECO) and Paeahu Solar LLC (Paeahu), holding that the PUC satisfied its public trust duties in this case.Under the PPA, MECO would purchase renewable energy from Paeahu's solar-plus-battery plant located within the Ulupalakua Ranch on Maui. Pono Power Coalition, a Maui community group, challenging the winning bidders' post-selection use of the same counsel to negotiate non-price PPA terms and asserting that the PUC failed to fulfill its public trust duties. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) this Court declines to inject antitrust standards into PPA approval proceedings; (2) the PUC appropriately evaluated the allegations of anticompetitive conduct; (3) the statutes governing the PUC's PPA review reflect the core public trust principles; and (4) the PUC properly approved the PPA. View "In re Maui Electric Company, Ltd." on Justia Law

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Citizens for Fair Rates and the Environment and New Energy Economy, Inc., two organizations that represented energy consumers (collectively, "New Energy"), intervened in the administrative proceedings before the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission. New Energy raised several issues for the New Mexico Supreme Court's review, most of which attacked the Energy Transition Act ("ETA") on constitutional grounds. In addition to these constitutional challenges, New Energy also raised a single claim of error in the findings of the Commission relating to the requirement that Public Service Company of New Mexico’s ("PNM") submit a “memorandum . . . from a securities firm” in support of its application for a financing order. The Supreme Court declined to reach two of New Energy’s issues because they were not properly before the Court and were not essential to the disposition of this appeal. The Court further declined to address New Energy’s arguments regarding an invasion of judicial powers under Section 62-18-8(B) and Section 62-18- 22. With respect to the issues it deemed properly presented, the Court rejected New Energy’s constitutional challenges to the ETA, and concluded the Commission’s final order was based on a reasonable construction of Section 62-18- 4(B)(5) and was supported by substantial evidence. View "Citizens for Fair Rates et al. v. NMPRC" on Justia Law