Justia Utilities Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court dismissing Plaintiff's administrative appeal from the decision of the Connecticut Siting Council approving the application of NTE Connecticut, LLC (NTE) seeking a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need for the construction of an electric generating facility in the town of Killingly, holding that there was no error.Plaintiff, a nonprofit organization, appealed the council's decision to the trial court, arguing that the council improperly refused to consider the environmental impact of installing a gas pipeline to its proposed facility when weighing the public benefit of the facility against its probable environmental impact. The trial court dismissed the appeal, concluding that the council was not required to consider the impact of the gas pipeline. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court correctly determined that the council’s refusal to consider the potential environmental impact of the gas pipeline during the proceedings on NTE’s application for a certificate was not arbitrary or capricious. View "Not Another Power Plant v. Connecticut Siting Council" on Justia Law

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In the first action ("the 2014 action"), The Gardens at Glenlakes Property Owners Association, Inc., Lake View Villas Association, Inc., Lake View Estates Property Owners Association, Inc., Glenlakes Unit One Property Owners Association, Inc., and Glenlakes Master Association, Inc. ("the Associations"), sued Baldwin County Sewer Service, LLC ("BCSS"), challenging a sewer-service rate increase. In the second action ("the 2017 action"), Dan Gormley, Mike Willis, Janet Maxwell, Larry Morgan, David Vosloh, and Dick Dayton ("the individual plaintiffs") sued BCSS, challenging the same rate increase. The trial court ultimately consolidated the actions in 2020, and it entered an order determining that the Associations and the individual plaintiffs were the real parties in interest in the actions. BCSS appealed that order. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the order was nonfinal, and could not support an appeal. View "Baldwin County Sewer Service, LLC v. Gardens at Glenlakes Property Owners Association, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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Under the Johnson Act, federal courts lack jurisdiction over all suits affecting state-approved utility rates. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction of an action brought by public utility ratepayers challenging California Assembly Bill 1054, which addresses the financial burdens that wildfires impose on electrical utilities. The panel concluded that plaintiffs' claims challenge ratemaking within the meaning of the Johnson Act, as this circuit's precedent has interpreted it. The court also concluded that the CPUC satisfied the Johnson Act's procedural requirements. Accordingly, the Johnson Act applies to this case and the panel lacked subject matter jurisdiction. View "Cannara v. Nemeth" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit granted a petition for review of two FERC orders that raised petitioners' electricity rates. The FERC orders validated accounting by Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline, LLC (PATH) under its formula rate, allowing it to pass through to ratepayers more than $6 million PATH spent for public relations and advocacy activities. The activities related to PATH's pursuit of Certificates of Public Convenience and Necessity (Certificates) to build its proposed electric power transmission line. Petitioners argue that the expenditures instead belong in a designated account which would exclude them from the formula rate. The court concluded that "Expenditures for Certain Civic, Political and Related Activities" include expenditures made for the purpose of indirect as well as direct influence. Accordingly, the court rejected PATH's assertion that account includes expenditures made for the purpose of directly influencing the decisions of public officials, but not the disputed expenditures, which were for indirect influence. View "Newman v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal concluding that a municipality does not violate Ohio Const. art. XVIII, 6 by selling a surplus of electricity to customers outside the municipality's boundaries, holding that the court of appeals did not err.The City of Cleveland sold outside its boundaries approximately four percent of the electricity it sold inside its boundaries. Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company (CEI) brought this complaint arguing that the electricity the City sold extraterritorially as surplus violated this Court's decision in Toledo Edison Co. v. Bryan, 737 N.E.2d 529 (2000) and the Ohio Constitution. The trial court granted summary judgment for the City. The court of appeals reversed, determining (1) Article XVIII, Section 6 does not require a municipality to buy the precise amount of electricity required by its inhabitants at any given time, and (2) questions of material fact existed as to whether the City obtained surplus electricity for the sole purpose of selling it to a neighboring city. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that while a municipality may not acquire excess capacity for the sole purpose of reselling it outside the municipality's territorial boundaries, the municipality is not required to purchase the exact amount of electricity necessary to satisfy the current needs of its territorial customers. View "Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. v. Cleveland" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit granted CPUC's petition for review of the Commission's approval of CAISO's proposal for revising the compensation structure for its Capacity Procurement Mechanism (CPM), a voluntary program designed to provide electric capacity necessary to maintain grid reliability within CAISO's network. Here, as in Delaware Division of Public Advocate v. FERC, 3 F.4th 461 (D.C. Cir. 2021), the Commission failed to grapple with the distinction between bids submitted below or above the soft-offer cap, resulting in the Commission's reliance on precedent without recognition of the substantial differences between the two cases. The court wrote that, apart from the Commission's misplaced reliance on its 2015 CPM Order, the record contains no evidence or findings to support its decision. Accordingly, the court vacated the order and remanded for further proceedings. View "California Public Utilities Commission v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment upholding the Commission's nondisclosure decisions in this Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case brought by Niskanen, seeking the names and addresses of property owners along the route of a proposed pipeline. In this case, although the Commission concluded that the property owners' privacy interests outweighed the public interest in this identifying information, and it agreed to a more limited disclosure—the property owners' initials and street names. The court agreed with the district court's finding that the Commission's proposal struck the proper balance between these competing interests. The court explained that Niskanen identifies a weighty public interest in understanding the Commission's compliance with its notice obligations, but it articulates no reason it needs the full names and addresses of landowners along a pipeline route to do so. View "Niskanen Center v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court concluding that compliance with Utah Code 10-2-421 was the only precondition to three cities' taking over service to electric customers in annexed areas of the South Utah Valley Electric Service District (District), holding that the plain text of section 10-2-421 supported the district court's interpretation.Payson City, Spanish Fork City, and Salem City (collectively, Cities) sought to provide electricity to customers in areas that they annexed within the District. The dispute between the Cities and the District was over which statutory provisions governed the requirements the Cities must satisfy in order to take over service to electric customers in annexed portions of the District. The district court ruled in favor of the Cities. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the plain language of Utah Code sections 10-2-421 and 10-8-21 sets forth that the Cities may provide electric service to customers inside the district as long as they pay the required reimbursements. View "South Utah Valley Electric v. Payson City" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied a petition for review challenging FERC's two orders regarding a utility company, Entergy Services, and a subset of sales at issue called the Grand Gulf Sales. The Louisiana Commission alleges that FERC's exclusion of the Grand Gulf Sales from the damage calculation was an irrational change of position. The court found no merit in this contention, explaining that the allegations regarding the Grand Gulf Sales do not concern Section 30.03 of the System Agreement because those sales were always treated as Joint Account Sales and therefore never treated as part of Entergy Arkansas's native load.The Louisiana Commission also alleged that the Grand Gulf Sales—despite being accounted for as Joint Account Sales—still violated the System Agreement. The court concluded that FERC reasonably concluded that the two complaints at issue alleged different violations of the System Agreement and therefore that the 2009 Complaint did not preserve the allegations in the 2019 Complaint for purposes of the 2015 Settlement Agreement waiver provisions. In this case, neither Section G(1) or G(2) saves the allegations in the 2019 Complaint from being barred by the 2015 Settlement Agreement. Finally, even if the Louisiana Commission's mutual mistake argument was not waived, FERC reasonably determined on the merits that the Louisiana Commission presented no evidence that any initial shared impression about the Grand Gulf Sales was a material fact that formed the basis of the 2015 Settlement Agreement. View "Louisiana Public Service Commission v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs challenged a surcharge that Long Beach imposes on its water and sewer customers by embedding the surcharge in the rates the Water Department charges for service. The surcharge funds are transferred from the Water Department to the city’s general fund, to be used for unrestricted general revenue purposes. The surcharge was approved by a majority of the city’s voters under California Constitution article XIII C. The plaintiffs argued that notwithstanding majority voter approval, the surcharge violates article XIII D, which prohibits a local agency from assessing a fee or charge “upon any parcel of property or upon any person as an incident of property ownership” unless the fee or charge satisfies enumerated requirements the city acknowledges were not met.The trial court found the surcharge unconstitutional and invalid. The court of appeal affirmed the judgment and an award of attorney fees. Because the surcharge qualifies as a “levy other than an ad valorem tax, a special tax, or an assessment, imposed by an agency upon a parcel or upon a person as an incident of property ownership, including a user fee or charge for a property related service,” it satisfies the definition of “fee” or “charge” in article XIII D and must comply with article XIII D, section 6(b)’s requirements regardless of voter approval. View "Lejins v. City of Long Beach" on Justia Law