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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) finding that it did not have statutory jurisdiction to consider Petitioner’s complaint challenging the Greater Harrison County Public Service District’s (the District) rate increase, holding that the District was not subject to the PSC’s jurisdiction with regard to ratemaking authority. In 2015, the Legislature adopted deregulation measures to limit the PSC’s jurisdiction and to exempt larger public service districts from the requirement that the district obtain approval from he PSC before changing the rates it charged for water or sewer service. After 2015, larger public service districts, statutory defined as having at least 4,500 customers, were only required to obtain approval of a rate change from a local elected body. After the Harrison County Commission approved a rate increase sought by the District, Petitioner, a District customer, brought suit arguing that the PSC had jurisdiction because the District did not have at least 4,500 customers. The PSC found that the District provided service to at least 4,500 customers, and thus, it did not have jurisdiction to examine the District’s rate increase. The Supreme Court affirmed. View "Pool v. Greater Harrison County Public Service District" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Public Service Commission finding that the Jefferson County Public Service District may “indefinitely delay” a project to upgrade its sewer service, holding that the Commission did not exceed its authority or make factual findings that were not supported by adequate evidence and that the substantive result of the Commission’s order was not improper. The Supreme Court may reserve an order of the Commission when it exceeded its authority, it made factual findings that were not supported by adequate evidence, and the substantive result of the order was not proper. In affirming the Commission’s order, the Court held that, under the facts of this case, none of these three situations applied. View "Jefferson County Citizens for Economic Preservation v. Public Service Commission of West Virginia" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether the former Mayor of the City of Audubon Park and individual members of the City Council were personally liable for excess sanitation funds generated by a monthly assessment for the stated purpose of paying for sanitation services that was not devoted to trash collection and recycling but had been spent for other municipal purposes. The circuit court dismissed this action, brought by a taxpayer pursuant to section 180 of the Kentucky Constitution and Ky. Rev. Stat. 92.330 and 92.340, for failure to state a cause of action due to lack of injury to the City. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Defendants were liable for the excess sanitation funds. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded, holding (1) the complaint stated a cause of action because the statutes prohibit the use of the sanitation tax revenue for other non-sanitation purposes; but (2) liability was not absolute if the individuals who acted on behalf of the City could establish that the tax revenue was spent for valid City obligations. View "Scalise v. Sewell-Scheuermann" on Justia Law

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The Natural Gas Act (NGA), 15 U.S.C. 717f(h) gives natural gas companies that hold certificates of public convenience and necessity from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) the power of eminent domain but does not provide for “quick take” to permit immediate possession. Transcontinental is building a natural gas pipeline through Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina and needed rights of way. Transcontinental met the requirements of section 717f(h). The administrative review leading up to the certificate of public convenience and necessity lasted almost three years and included extensive outreach and public participation and an Environmental Impact Statement. Transcontinental extended written offers of compensation exceeding $3000 to each Landowner, but these offers were not accepted. The Landowners had all participated in the FERC administrative process. Transcontinental, planning to begin construction in fall 2017, filed condemnation suits The district court granted Transcontinental summary judgment, effectively giving it immediate possession, concluding that the Landowners had received “adequate due process.” The Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that granting immediate possession violated the separation of powers because eminent domain is a legislative power and the NGA did not grant “quick take.” Transcontinental properly obtained the substantive right to the property by following the statutory requirements, which are not similar to “quick take” procedures, before seeking equitable relief to obtain possession. View "Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co., LLC v. Permanent Easements for 2.14 Acres" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed this appeal challenging the Public Utility Commission’s decision to allow Dayton Power and Light Company (DP&L) to withdraw and terminate its second electric-security plan (ESP II), holding that the Commission’s approval of DP&L’s third electric-security plan (ESP III) rendered this case moot. The Commission allowed DP&L to withdraw and terminate its ESP II rate plan and service stability rider (SSR) charge. The ESP II rate plan and its SSR charge were then replaced by ESP III, which the Commission approved. Appellant’s appealed the Commission’s order regarding ESP II. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal as moot, holding that because there was no remedy that the Court could legally order, the appeal constituted only a request for an advisory ruling, and the controversy was no longer live. View "In re Application of Dayton Power & Light Co." on Justia Law

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In 1999, after deregulation of the energy industry in Illinois, Exelon sold its fossil-fuel power plants to use the proceeds on its nuclear plants and infrastructure. The sales yielded $4.8 billion, $2 billion more than expected. Exelon attempted to defer tax liability on the gains by executing “like-kind exchanges,” 26 U.S.C. 1031(a)(1). Exelon identified its Collins Plant, to be sold for $930 million, with $823 of taxable gain, and its Powerton Plant, to be sold for $870 million ($683 million in taxable gain) for exchanges. Exelon identified as investment candidates a Texas coal-fired plant to replace Collins and Georgia coal-fired plants to replace Powerton. In “sale-and-leaseback” transactions, Exelon leased an out-of-state power plant from a tax-exempt entity for a period longer than the plant’s estimated useful life, then immediately leased the plant back to that entity for a shorter sublease term. and provided to the tax-exempt entity a multi-million-dollar accommodation fee with a fully-funded purchase option to terminate Exelon’s residual interest after the sublease. Exelon asserted that it had acquired a genuine ownership interest in the plants, qualifying them as like-kind exchanges. The Commissioner disallowed the benefits claimed by Exelon, characterizing the transactions as a variant of the traditional sale-in-lease-out (SILO) tax shelters, widely invalidated as abusive tax shelters. The tax court and Seventh Circuit affirmed, applying the substance over form doctrine to conclude that the Exelon transactions failed to transfer to Exelon a genuine ownership interest in the out-of-state plants. In substance Exelon’s transactions resemble loans to the tax-exempt entities. View "Exelon Corp. v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue" on Justia Law

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Under traditional rate regulation, an energy utility must first make improvements to its infrastructure before it can recover their cost through regulator-approved rate increases to customers. The process is an expensive, onerous rate-making case, which involves a comprehensive review of the utility’s entire business operations. In 2013 the legislature authorized utilities to obtain regulatory preapproval for “designated” improvements to their infrastructure. Under the “TDSIC” Statute, a utility can seek regulatory approval of a seven-year plan that designates eligible improvements, followed by periodic petitions to adjust rates automatically as approved investments are completed. The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission preapproved approximately $20 million in infrastructure investments and authorized increases to NIPSCO’s natural-gas rates under the TDSIC mechanism. The approval referred to categories of improvements that describe broad parameters for future improvements but did not designate those improvements with specificity. The Indiana Supreme Court reversed, in part, concluding that the TDSIC Statute permits periodic rate increases only for specific projects a utility designates, and the Commission approves, in the threshold proceeding and not for multiple-unit projects using ascertainable planning criteria. A utility must specifically identify the projects or improvements at the outset in its seven-year plan and not in later proceedings involving periodic updates. Commission approval of “broad categories of unspecified projects defeats the purpose of having a plan.” View "NIPSCO Industrial Group v. Northern Indiana Public Service Co." on Justia Law

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Kentucky Utilities (KU) burns coal to produce energy, then stores the leftover coal ash in two man-made ponds. Environmental groups contend that the chemicals in the coal ash are contaminating the surrounding groundwater, which in turn contaminates a nearby lake, in violation of the Clean Water Act (CWA), 33 U.S.C. 1251(a), and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), 42 U.S.C. 6902(a). The Sixth Circuit affirmed, in part, the dismissal of their suit. The CWA does not extend liability to pollution that reaches surface waters via groundwater. A “point source,” of pollution under the CWA is a “discernible, confined and discrete conveyance.” Groundwater is not a point source. RCRA does, however govern this conduct, and the plaintiffs have met the statutory rigors needed to bring such a claim. They have alleged (and supported) an imminent and substantial threat to the environment; they have provided the EPA and Kentucky ninety days to respond to those allegations, and neither the EPA nor Kentucky has filed one of the three types of actions that would preclude the citizen groups from proceeding with their federal lawsuit, so the district court had jurisdiction. View "Kentucky Waterways Alliance v. Kentucky Utilities Co." on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit granted ANR's petition for review challenging FERC's decision refusing to allow ANR to charge market-based rates, as opposed to cost-based rates, for its natural gas storage services. The court held that FERC acted arbitrarily and capriciously because it did not provide any reasonable justification for allowing DTE affiliates but not ANR to charge market-based rates. Furthermore, FERC's market-power analysis was internally inconsistent. The court also held that ANR's remaining contentions lacked merit. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "ANR Storage Co. v. FERC" on Justia Law

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Regional transmission organizations manage the interstate grid for electricity, conduct auctions through which many large generators of electricity sell most or all of their power, and are regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Illinois subsidizes nuclear generation facilities by granting “zero emission credits,” which generators that use coal or gas to produce power must purchase from the recipients at a price set by the state. Electricity producers and municipalities sued, contending that the price‐adjustment aspect of the system is preempted by the Federal Power Act because it impinges on the FERC’s regulatory authority. They acknowledge that a state may levy a tax on carbon emissions; tax the assets and incomes of power producers; tax revenues to subsidize generators; or create a cap‐and‐trade system requiring every firm that emits carbon to buy credits from firms that emit less carbon. They argued that the zero‐emission‐credit system indirectly regulates the auction by using average auction prices as a component in a formula that affects the credits' cost. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants. Illinois has not engaged in discrimination beyond that required to regulate within its borders. All Illinois carbon‐emitting plants need to buy credits. The subsidy’s recipients are in Illinois. The price effect of the statute is felt wherever the power is used. All power (from inside and outside Illinois) goes for the same price in an interstate auction. The cross‐subsidy among producers may injure investors in carbon‐ releasing plants, but only plants in Illinois. View "Village of Old Mill Creek v. Star" on Justia Law