Justia Utilities Law Opinion Summaries
Moore v. RealPage Utility Management
In this case involving the method for determining an apartment tenant's utility bill, the Court of Appeals held that the approval requirements stated in Md. Code Pub. Util. (PU) 7-304 are applicable to all energy allocation systems in apartment houses, regardless of the construction date of the building.A federal district court issued a certified question of law in the context of a putative class action lawsuit brought by Plaintiff, on behalf of residential apartment tenants, against a residential utility billing services company working on behalf of Maryland landlords. The federal district court asked the Court of Appeals to determine whether, for apartment houses built prior to 1978, methods of energy allocation determining the billable amount of electricity or gas by means other that by the actual measurement of consumption of the individual unit are subject to the approval of the Public Service Commission, as set forth in PU 7-304. The Court of Appeals held that allocation of energy costs solely computed on the basis of square footage computations and pro rata assessments, as well as added rental components, are exempt from the approval requirements set forth PU 7-304. View "Moore v. RealPage Utility Management" on Justia Law
SRC Holdings, LLC v. Public Service Commission of W. Va.
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Public Service Commission of West Virginia (PSC) approving the application of one of Ambassador Limousine and Taxi Service (Ambassador) to transfer the common motor carrier certificate held by Classic Limousine Service, Inc. (Classic) to Ambassador, holding that there was no error.SRC Holdings, LLC, doing business as Williams Transport (Williams), appealed the PSC's order approving Ambassador's application to transfer its common motor carrier certificate to Ambassador, arguing that Classic's motor carrier certificate was nontransferable and that Ambassador's proposed use of the certificate would create new competition in the same territory that Williams serviced. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the PSC's reasoning in reaching its decision was legally sound and supported by the evidence. View "SRC Holdings, LLC v. Public Service Commission of W. Va." on Justia Law
Duke Energy Carolinas v. SC Office of Regulatory Staff
The issue presented for the South Carolina Supreme Court in this case involved two consolidated cross-appeals from the Public Service Commission's (PSC) determinations regarding ratemaking applications filed by Duke Energy Carolinas, LLC (DEC) and Duke Energy Progress, LLC (DEP) (collectively, Duke). Each Duke entity owned one coal-fired power plant in South Carolina and seven coal-fired power plants in North Carolina, for a total of sixteen affected plants. In their ratemaking applications, the two Duke entities sought recovery for expenses related to their plants in both states, with those costs shared proportionately between their North and South Carolina customers. The PSC allowed in part and disallowed in part the requested expenses. On appeal, Duke contended the PSC erred in disallowing: (1) environmental compliance costs associated with North Carolina law; (2) litigation costs incurred by Duke in defending itself from various lawsuits; and (3) carrying costs on specified deferred accounts. In the cross-appeal, the South Carolina Energy Users Committee (SCEUC) contended the PSC erred in allowing DEC recovery of costs associated with a now-abandoned nuclear project in Cherokee County because of the South Carolina General Assembly's repeal of the Base Load Review Act (BLRA). After review, the Supreme Court affirmed the PSC's decisions in full because its decisions were supported by substantial evidence in the record, were not arbitrary or capricious, and were not controlled by an error of law. View "Duke Energy Carolinas v. SC Office of Regulatory Staff" on Justia Law
In re Application of FirstEnergy Advisors for Certification as a Competitive Retail Electric Service Power Broker & Aggregator
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) granting certification to FirstEnergy Advisors, a competitive retail electric service provider, holding that the order in this case fell short of the requirement set forth in Ohio Rev. Code 4903.09 that PUCO file "findings of fact and written opinions setting forth the reasons prompting the decisions arrived at."Two organizations in this case intervened in the PUCO proceedings and objected to the certification. Despite the objections, PUCO granted the certification request and issued a "barebones" order offering no explanation as to how FirstEnergy Advisors met the applicable legal requirements. The Supreme Court reversed PUCO's certification decision and remanded the matter to PUCO for further proceedings, holding that PUCO's order violated action 4903.09 because it failed to explain the reasoning and factual grounds for granting FirstEnergy Advisors' application. View "In re Application of FirstEnergy Advisors for Certification as a Competitive Retail Electric Service Power Broker & Aggregator" on Justia Law
Gamage v. Public Utilities Commission
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the Public Utilities Commission dismissing Appellants' complaint alleging that Central Maine Power Company (CMP) committed unreasonable practices by delivering notices threatening disconnection during the November 2020 to April 2021 winter season during the COVID-19 pandemic, holding that there was no error.Appellants filed a complaint with the Commission alleging that they were threatened with disconnection notices because they were behind in payments to CMP. Appellants alleged that by sending notices threatening disconnection, when COVID-19 case numbers were rising, amounted to an "unreasonable" practice by CMP. The Commission dismissed the complaint as being "without merit." The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the Commission did not err or abuse its discretion in dismissing the complaint based on its previous determination that Appellants' allegations were without merit. View "Gamage v. Public Utilities Commission" on Justia Law
Matthews v. Centrus Energy Corp.
The 1954 Atomic Energy Act allowed private construction, ownership, and operation of commercial nuclear power reactors for energy production. The 1957 Price-Anderson Act created a system of private insurance, government indemnification, and limited liability for federal licensees, 42 U.S.C. 2012(i). In 1988, in response to the Three Mile Island accident, federal district courts were given original and removal jurisdiction over both “extraordinary nuclear occurrences” and any public liability action arising out of or resulting from a nuclear incident; any suit asserting public liability was deemed to arise under 42 U.S.C. 2210, with the substantive rules for decision derived from state law, unless inconsistent with section 2210.The Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant enriched uranium for the nuclear weapons program and later to fuel commercial nuclear reactors. Plaintiffs lived near the plant, and claim that the plant was portrayed as safe while it discharged radioactive material that caused (and continues to cause) them harm.Plaintiffs, seeking to represent a class, filed suit in state court asserting claims under Ohio law. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the removal of the case on the grounds that the complaint, although it did not assert a federal claim, nonetheless raised a federal question under the Price-Anderson Act, and affirmed the subsequent dismissal. The Act preempted plaintiffs’ state law claims and the plaintiffs did not assert a claim under the Act but asserted that their “claims do not fall within the scope of the Price-Anderson Act.” View "Matthews v. Centrus Energy Corp." on Justia Law
Sun City Home Owners Ass’n v. Arizona Corp. Commission
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals upholding the decision of the Arizona Corporation Commission to consolidate several communities into a single service district, gradually increasing rates for some and lowering them for others to achieve uniform rates, holding that there was no error.The Commission consolidated the monthly wastewater rates paid by five wastewater districts acquired by EPCOR Water Arizona Inc. in 2012. Sun City, one of the wastewater districts, appealed, arguing that the consolidated rate discriminated against residents of Sun City. The court of appeals upheld the Commission's decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the rates approved by the Commission for the fully consolidated EPCOR district did not violate Ariz. Const. art. XV, 12. View "Sun City Home Owners Ass'n v. Arizona Corp. Commission" on Justia Law
In re Application of Duke Energy Ohio, Inc.
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Ohio Power Siting Board granting Duke Energy Ohio, Inc. a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need to construct, operate, and maintain a natural-gas pipeline, holding that the Board's decision was not manifestly against the weight of the evidence and was not so clearly unsupported by the record as to show a mistake or willful disregard of duty.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) assuming without deciding that the Board misapplied its filing requirements, the error was harmless; (2) the Board did not err in determining that Duke's proposal met the conditions of Ohio Rev. Code 4906.10(A)(1); (3) the Board properly accounted for the interest of safety in evaluating Duke's proposal; (4) the Board did not err by not requiring Duke to evaluate the pipeline's impact against the City of Blue Ash's most recent comprehensive plan; (5) the Board did not err in evaluating the pipeline's estimated tax benefits; and (6) the Board did not deprive Blue Ash of due process of law. View "In re Application of Duke Energy Ohio, Inc." on Justia Law
In re Application of Suburban Natural Gas Co.
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) allowing a gas company to charge its customers higher rates, holding that the PUCO erred by approving the rate increase.At issue was whether Suburban Natural Gas Company's customers must pay for a 4.9-mile extension of the company's pipeline. The PUCO determined that the pipeline extension met the "used-and-useful" test as of a specified date and approved the rate increase. See Ohio Rev. Code 4909.15(A)(1). The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the PUCO looked beyond whether the entire 4.9-mile extension was used and useful on the applicable date and considered whether it was a prudent investment because it might prove useful in the future; and (2) therefore, the PUCO erred in evaluating the rate increase. View "In re Application of Suburban Natural Gas Co." on Justia Law
Appeal of Town of Chester et al.
Petitioners, the Towns of Chester and Hudson (collectively, Towns), appealed a Board of Tax and Land Appeals (BTLA) order granting respondent Public Service Company of New Hampshire d/b/a Eversource Energy (PSNH) abatements of taxes assessed against its property located in Chester for tax years 2014 and 2016 and in Hudson for tax years 2014, 2015, and 2016. PSNH submitted an appraisal report prepared by its expert, Concentric Energy Advisors, Inc., setting forth the expert’s opinion of the aggregate fair market value of PSNH’s taxable property located in each municipality for each tax year. Two appraisers employed by the Towns’ expert, George E. Sansoucy, P.E., LLC (GES), used a substantially similar methodology in appraising the fair market value of the land interests. The BTLA compared the equalized market value to the aggregate assessed value for each municipality for each tax year. The BTLA concluded that an assessment was unreasonable and granted an abatement when it determined that the difference between the equalized market value and the aggregate assessed value was greater than five percent. The Towns argued that because both GES and Concentric relied upon the assessed value of PSNH’s land interests in reaching their opinions of fair market value, the values that the BTLA incorporated into its analysis “were already proportionate” and “should not have had the equalization ratio[s] applied to them.” The BTLA denied the Towns’ motion for reconsideration, noting that it based its calculations upon values that “were supplied by the [Towns] themselves in the stipulations agreed to by them” and adopting the arguments PSNH raised in its objection. Finding no reversible error in the BTLA's order, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Appeal of Town of Chester et al." on Justia Law