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After years of investigation, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board), issued a cleanup and abatement order (CAO) to San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E) and several other entities, in connection with a power plant’s operations that discharged waste into the San Diego Bay. The Regional Board found that SDG&E caused or permitted waste to be discharged into the Bay and thereby created, or threatened to create, pollution and nuisance conditions. SDG&E contested its designation as a responsible "person" under Water Code section 13304 (a), and petitioned for a writ of mandate to have the CAO vacated. The superior court denied the writ. SDG&E argued then, as it did before the Court of Appeal, that shipyard companies comparatively discharged greater amounts of pollutants into the Bay and that two appellate opinions required application of the "substantial factor" causation test to determine whether SDG&E created or threatened to create a condition of pollution or nuisance. The Court of Appeal found it was undisputed that SDG&E directly discharged and thus "caused or permitted" waste to enter the Bay, distinguishing the aforementioned appellate cases. Further, the Regional Board adequately demonstrated that the waste discharged by SDG&E created, or threatened to create, a condition of pollution or nuisance. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the judgment. View "San Diego Gas & Electric Co. v. San Diego Regional Water etc." on Justia Law

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Uber is a “transportation networking company” (TNC) regulated by the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC). All TNCs must submit annual reports to the CPUC, containing specified data, and file an annual accessibility plan. After receiving numerous complaints from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency regarding illegal parking, traffic congestion, and safety hazards caused by TNC vehicles, the city attorney opened an investigation into possible violations of state and municipal law by TNCs, including Uber. The city attorney issued the administrative subpoenas to Uber, including a request for: Annual Reports filed by Uber with CPUC, 2013-2017 and all of the raw data supporting those reports on providing accessible vehicles, driver violations/suspensions, number of drivers completing training courses, updates on accessibility plans, report on hours/miles logged by drivers, and providing service by zip code. Uber refused to comply, arguing that the CPUC had primary jurisdiction. The court of appeal affirmed a trial court order that Uber produce the reports. It was within the city attorney’s investigative powers to issue the administrative subpoenas. Public Utilities Code section 1759 did not deprive the trial court of jurisdiction and the primary jurisdiction doctrine did not apply to postpone enforcement of the administrative subpoenas. View "City and County of San Francisco v. Uber Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, members of three rural power cooperatives, filed suit alleging that the cooperatives failed to refund excess "patronage capital" to their members as required by state law. In this case, the cooperatives argued that Mississippi Code 77-5-235(5)'s refund requirement conflicts with Congress's purposes and objectives as expressed in the Rural Electrification Act, federal regulations, and the cooperatives' loan agreements with the Rural Utility Service. Furthermore, they argued that plaintiff's for request appointment of a trustee or receiver conflicts with federal interests and the provision in their loan agreements that appointment of a receiver constitutes an event of default. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's decision to remand these consolidated cases to state court, holding that the cooperatives have a colorable federal preemption defense and were entitled to remove under 28 U.S.C. 1442's provision for federal officer removal. View "Butler v. Coast Electric Power Assoc." on Justia Law

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The issues this case presented for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s review centered on: (1) whether the penalty imposed against HIKO Energy, LLC (HIKO) was so grossly disproportionate as to violate the Excessive Fines Clause of the Pennsylvania and U.S. Constitutions; (2) whether the penalty impermissibly punished HIKO for litigating; and (3) whether the Pennsylvania Utility Commission (PUC) abused its discretion in imposing a penalty which was not supported by substantial evidence. The Supreme Court concluded HIKO waived its constitutional challenge to the civil penalty in this case, the penalty was not imposed as a punishment against HIKO for opting to litigate its case, and that the PUC’s conclusions in support of imposing the penalty were supported by substantial evidence. View "HIKO Energy, Aplt. v. PA PUC" on Justia Law

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In 2013, a small business jet crashed into a Georgia Power Company transmission pole on Milliken & Company’s property near the Thomson-McDuffie Regional Airport in Thomson, Georgia. The two pilots were injured and the five passengers died. In the wake of the crash, the pilots and the families of the deceased passengers filed a total of seven lawsuits against multiple defendants, including Georgia Power and Milliken. The complaints in those seven suits alleged that a transmission pole located on Milliken’s property was negligently erected and maintained within the airport’s protected airspace. The record evidence showed Georgia Power constructed the transmission pole on Milliken’s property for the purpose of providing electricity to Milliken’s manufacturing-plant expansion, and that the pole was constructed pursuant to a 1989 Easement between Georgia Power and Milliken. In each of the seven suits, Milliken filed identical cross-claims against Georgia Power, alleging that Georgia Power was contractually obligated to indemnify Milliken “for all sums that Plaintiffs may recover from Milliken” under Paragraph 12 of the Easement. Georgia Power moved for summary judgment on the crossclaims, which were granted. The trial court reasoned Paragraph 12 of the Easement operated as a covenant not to sue, rather than as an indemnity agreement, because it “nowhere contains the word ‘indemnity’” and “it is not so comprehensive regarding protection from liability.” The Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment to six cases. Rather than adopt the trial court’s reasoning, the appellate court held that the provision was an indemnity agreement and affirmed the trial court by applying Georgia’s anti-indemnity statute, OCGA 13-8-2 (b), to determine that Paragraph 12 of the Easement was “void as against public policy,” a theory argued before the trial court but argued or briefed before the Court of Appeals. The Georgia Supreme Court determined the Court of Appeals erred in its construction and application of OCGA 13-8-2(b), vacated the judgment and remanded for the lower court to consider whether, in the first instance, the trial court’s rationale for granting Georgia Power’s motions for summary judgment and any other arguments properly before the Court of Appeals. View "Milliken & Co. v. Georgia Power Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the district court affirming the conclusions of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that CPS Energy violated both Tex. Util. Code 54.204(c)'s uniform-charge requirement and section 54.204(b)'s prohibition of discrimination, holding that the PUC could reasonably have concluded, as it did, that CPS Energy violated the plain terms of section 54.204(b). The PUC concluded that a utility that invoices different telecommunications providers a uniform rate nevertheless violates section 54.204(b) if it fails to take timely action to ensure that all pole attachers actually pay the uniform rate it invoices. The court of appeals reversed, holding that if a telecommunications provider does not pay the rate the utility uniformly charges, any discriminatory effect is the telecommunication provider's fault, not the utility's. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the PUC's finding that CPS Energy failed to make any serious or meaningful effort to collect from AT&T Texas was supported by substantial evidence, and the effect on Time Warner Cable was clearly discriminatory. View "Time Warner Cable Texas LLC v. CPS Energy" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in this case concerned whether counties could advance common law claims seeking legal redress against telecommunications companies for alleged deficiencies in their administration of fees associated with 911 emergency communication services. The Supreme Court concluded the Legislature balanced counties’ interests against those of other co-participants enlisted under the 911 Act and provided sufficient indicia evincing its intention to centralize enforcement authority in the relevant state agency. "Although we realize that the County may have been disadvantaged by PEMA’s apparent failure to act, this unfortunate circumstance does not control the judicial construction of a legislative enactment." Thus, the Court reversed the Commonwealth Court, and reinstated the order of the court of common pleas. View "Co. of Butler v. Centurylink, et al.." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgments of the trial court and court of appeal rejecting Plaintiffs' facial challenge to the ordinance adopted by the City and County of San Francisco (the City) requiring wireless telephone service companies to obtain permits to install and maintain lines and equipment in public rights-of-way, holding that the lower courts properly found that ordinance was lawful. Specifically, Plaintiffs argued that the ordinance was preempted by Cal. Pub. Util. Code 7901 and that the ordinance violated Cal. Pub. Util. Code 7901.1. The trial court ruled that section 7901 did not preempt the challenged portions of the ordinance and rejected Plaintiffs' claim that it violated section 7901.1. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) section 7901 does not preempt the ordinance based on aesthetic considerations; and (2) the ordinance does not violate section 7901.1 by singling out wireless telephone corporations for regulation. View "T-Mobile West LLC v. City & County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant, Southeastern Connecticut Water Authority, on the basis of a rule (Rule) promulgated by Defendant immunizing itself from liability for failures or deficiencies in its supply of water to customers, holding that there was no explicit authorization in the special act creating Defendant that authorized Defendant to promulgate such a rule. Defendant was created in 1967 by a special act of the General Assembly. On the basis of the authority purportedly granted to it by a provision of the special act, Defendant adopted the Rule at issue in this case. Plaintiff later commenced this action seeking damages on the basis of a loss of water service at a hotel operated by Plaintiff. Defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing (1) the Rule immunized it from liability, and (2) the claim was barred by the common-law economic loss doctrine. The trial court rendered summary judgment for Defendant based on the Rule. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding that Defendant lacked authority to promulgate a rule that immunized it from liability for disruptions to water service. View "Raspberry Junction Holding, LLC v. Southeastern Connecticut Water Authority" on Justia Law

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Families filed suit at the Circuit Court seeking, inter alia, a declaratory judgment that they owned lignite under a Mississippi Power Company (“MPC”) plant built on land MPC had purchased, a fact not disputed by any party. One month later, MPC filed suit to confirm and quiet title to its property and further asserted that lignite could only be removed economically by surface mining, a fact not disputed by any party. MPC asked to enjoin all defendants from asserting any right, title, or interest to the lignite. Alternatively, MPC asked for a declaratory judgment that lignite removal would deplete and destroy the surface of its land, rendering it unusable, a fact not disputed by any party. Two orders at issue before the Mississippi Supreme Court were "authored by two learned trial judges—one chancery, one circuit." Although the Supreme Court's review was de novo, the applicable law was neither new nor novel. Because neither trial court failed to follow controlling law, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Barham v. Mississippi Power Company" on Justia Law