Justia Utilities Law Opinion Summaries
Maine Coalition to Stop Smart Meters v. Public Utilities Comm’n
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the Public Utilities Commission denying the petition of Maine Coalition to Stop Smart Meters for reconsideration of a previous order approving revised terms and conditions for the smart-meter opt-out program created by Central Maine Power (CMP), holding that there was no abuse of discretion.The revised terms and conditions of the smart-meter opt-out program at issue allowed CMP to install solid-state meters, which are smart meters with the transmitting function disabled, instead of electromechanical (analog) meters for opt-out customers. The Coalition filed a petition for reconsideration. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commission's finding that solid-state meters are safe was not supported by substantial evidence; and (2) the Commission's decision to approve the revised terms was not arbitrary or unreasonable, unjust, or unlawful and was supported by competent evidence in the record. View "Maine Coalition to Stop Smart Meters v. Public Utilities Comm'n" on Justia Law
Southern Ariz. Home Builders Ass’n v. Town of Marana
The Supreme Court held that the Town of Marana violated Ariz. Rev. Stat. 9-463.05 by assigning the entire cost of upgraded and expanded wastewater treatment facilities to future homeowners through development impact fees.\Applying the Home Builders Ass'n of Central Ariz. v. City of Scottsdale, 187 Ariz. 479 (1997), the court ruled that the development impact fees bore a presumption of validity and that section 9-463.05 was satisfied because the development fees resulted in a beneficial use to the development. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the court of appeals and reversed the trial court, holding (1) in applying section 9-463.05 as amended, the court of appeals erroneously applied from City of Scottsdale a presumption of validity to the Town's assessment of development fees; and (2) the Town violated section 9-463.05 by making future development bear 100 percent of the cost of acquiring the wastewater treatment facility and bearing nearly all of the cost of upgrading, modernizing, and improving the facility. View "Southern Ariz. Home Builders Ass'n v. Town of Marana" on Justia Law
State Dep’t of Natural Resources & Conservation v. Avista Corp.
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed I'm part the order of the district court granting summary judgment to the State and Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (State) regarding interpretation of a settlement agreement between the parties, holding that the district court erred by reaching the merits of a nonjusticiable issue.In this case stemming from settled litigation between the parties involving the State's rent claims against utility companies for use of riverbed acreage occupied by their hydroelectric projects. On appeal, defendant Avista Corporation argued that the district court erred in concluding that the agreement's provision governing a conditional reduction of rent would not provide a retroactive credit for past rent paid by Avista. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) a portion of the district court's order must be reversed as being unripe and constituting an advisory opinion about speculative issues that may never arise; and (2) the district court properly declared that "Avista [was] required to continue to pay the annual full market rental rate as set forth in the Settlement, Consent Judgment, and Lease." View "State Dep't of Natural Resources & Conservation v. Avista Corp." on Justia Law
County of Santa Clara v. Superior Court of Santa Clara County
In three related actions, privately held public utilities sued for property tax refunds for fiscal years 2014-2015 and 2015-2016, following the County’s denial of refund claims submitted under Revenue and Taxation Code section 5097. Section 100(b) establishes formulas for calculating the debt-service component of certain property taxes. Pursuant to that statute, Santa Clara County imposed taxes on the utilities’ properties at rates higher than those imposed on non-utility properties. Although section 100(b) was enacted in 1986, the utilities argued that imposition of a higher debt-service tax rate on their property, under the statutory formulas, violated California Constitution article XIII, section 19, which provides that the state-assessed property of certain regulated utility companies “shall be subject to taxation to the same extent and in the same manner as other property.”The trial court denied motions to dismiss, holding that the County had not carried its burden of establishing that the utilities cannot state a claim. The court of appeal reversed. Article XIII, section 19, does not mandate that utility property be taxed at the same rate as other property. Instead, it provides that, after utility property is assessed by the State Board of Equalization, it shall be subject to ad valorem taxation at its full market value by local jurisdictions. View "County of Santa Clara v. Superior Court of Santa Clara County" on Justia Law
Ind. Office of Utility Consumer Counselor v. Southern Indiana Gas & Electric Co.
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the decision of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission approving Southern Indiana Gas and Electric Company's (Vectren) petition for approval of its new instantaneous netting method determining the amount of credit its customers receive for their excess distributed generation of electricity, holding that there was no error.Acting within its expertise and authority, the Commission approved Vectren's petition seeking approval of a tariff (Rider EDG) rate for the procurement of excess distributed generation. The Commission approved the Rider EDG, finding that the instantaneous netting method was consistent with Ind. Code 8-1-40-5. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Commission properly held that Vectren's instantaneous netting method was not contrary to law and satisfied the requirements in Ind. Code Ann. 8-1-40-5. View "Ind. Office of Utility Consumer Counselor v. Southern Indiana Gas & Electric Co." on Justia Law
Ohio Power Co. v. Burns
In this dispute over whether Ohio Power Company, a private agency authorized to appropriate property under Ohio Rev. Code 163.01(B) and (C), was entitled to any of the necessary presumptions set forth in Ohio Rev. Code 163.09(B)(1) in establishing the necessity of easements through eminent domain to upgrade electric transmission lines, the Supreme Court held that the court of appeals properly reversed the trial court's determination that the appropriations at issue were necessary.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the term "appropriation" in Ohio Rev. Code 163.09(B)(1) means the appropriation of the "parcel or contiguous parcels in a single common ownership, or interest or right therein," as identified in the petition filed by an agency under Ohio Rev. Code 163.05; (2) because neither Ohio Power's board of directors nor the Ohio Siting Board reviewed the appropriations Ohio Power was not entitled to a rebuttable presumption under section 163.09(B)(1)(a) or an irrebuttable presumption under section 163.09(B)(1)(c); and (3) Ohio Power was entitled to a rebuttable presumption under section 163.09(B)(1)(b) because it provided evidence of the necessity for the appropriations. The Court remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Ohio Power Co. v. Burns" on Justia Law
California-American Water Co. v. Marina Coast Water Districtw
Monterey is an independent public agency responsible for analyzing Monterey County's water resources. Cal-Am is an investor-owned water utility providing water to over 100,000 residents on the Monterey Peninsula. Marina, a public agency, provides water for the City of Marina and neighboring Monterey Peninsula communities. In 1995 the State Water Resources Control Board ordered Cal-Am to stop drawing water from the Carmel River and develop an alternate water supply. In 2009 Marina, Monterey, and Cal-Am agreed to develop and construct a regional desalinization project to extract brackish water from beneath Monterey Bay, purify it, and deliver it to consumers. In 2010-2011, the parties entered into several agreements. The project was never built. The parties engaged in negotiation and mediation, ending in January 2012 without resolution.In September 2012, Cal-Am submitted a claim under the California Government Claims Act. Litigation followed. In 2019, the trial court entered summary adjudication against Monterey, finding that a negligence cause of action was barred by the two-year statute of limitations and against Cal-Am under the Government Claims Act. The court of appeal reversed. The trial court erred in finding that the “harm” accrued in 2010. There were triable issues of fact as to express waiver and as to the applicability of alternatives to the Claims Act. View "California-American Water Co. v. Marina Coast Water Districtw" on Justia Law
Hillcrest Natural Area Foundation, Inc. v. Dep’t of Environmental Quality
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court to affirm the Montana Department of Environmental Quality's (DEQ) issuance of a solid waste management system (SWMS) license to the City of Billings for future expansion of its Class II facility, the Billings Regional Landfill, holding that the DEQ did not violate the law.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) in approving the City's license application, the district court did not err when it concluded that DEQ made a "reasoned determination" that the City satisfied the requirements of Admin. R. M. 17.50.1005; (2) the district court did not err when it concluded that DEQ did not need to prepare an environmental impact statement pursuant to Admin. R. M. 17.4.608(1)(g); and (3) the district court did not err by not addressing whether the proposed expansion area violates Mont. Code Ann. 75-10-212(2)(c). View "Hillcrest Natural Area Foundation, Inc. v. Dep't of Environmental Quality" on Justia Law
Nodak Electric Coop. v. N.D. Public Svc. Commission, et al.
Otter Tail Power Company provided electric service to the City of Drayton, North Dakota under a franchise agreement. In August 2019, Drayton annexed to the city property known as McFarland’s Addition. In November 2019, an entity purchased a portion of McFarland’s Addition with the intention of building a truck stop. In April 2020, Drayton passed a resolution requiring Otter Tail to provide electric service to McFarland’s Addition. Nodak Electric Coop provided service to rural customers outside of Drayton, and did not provide services to customers in McFarland’s Addition. Nodak did not have a franchise from Drayton to provide electric service in the city. Nodak filed suit against Otter Tail, requesting the Public Service Commission to prohibit Otter Tail from extending electric service to McFarland’s Addition. Nodak alleged Otter Tail’s service would interfere with Nodak’s existing service and be an unreasonable duplication of services. In response, Otter Tail claimed the PSC lacked jurisdiction over Drayton’s decision on which provider could extend service within the city. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined the PSC lacked jurisdiction to rule on Nodak’s complaint, and reversed and vacated the PSC’s order: Otter Tail’s motion to dismiss should have been granted. View "Nodak Electric Coop. v. N.D. Public Svc. Commission, et al." on Justia Law
In re Establishing the Solar Generation Fund Rider
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the Public Utilities Commission authorizing a recovery mechanism referred to as the solar-generation-fund rider (Rider SGF), holding that remand to the Commission was required as to one issue.In 2021, the Commission issued an order establishing Rider SGF as the recovery mechanism that would be used to provide revenue for a "solar generation fund" by generating funds through a monthly retail charge to customers that would be billed and collected by Ohio electric distribution utilities. The Ohio Manufacturers' Association Energy Group appealed, challenging the amount and structure of Rider SGF. The Supreme Court remanded for clarification on the issue on the whether the Commission erred when it determined that customers must also pay the commercial activity tax through Rider SGF. View "In re Establishing the Solar Generation Fund Rider" on Justia Law