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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

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After initiating Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, Debtors entered into an Agreement: NextEra would acquire Debtors’ 80% interest in Oncor, the largest electricity transmission and distribution system in Texas, for approximately $9.5 billion. The Agreement obligated Debtors to pay NextEra $275 million if NextEra did not ultimately acquire Debtors’ interest in Oncor and Debtors either sold to someone else or otherwise emerged from bankruptcy, with several exceptions. If the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) did not approve the merger, payment would not be triggered if the Agreement was “terminated . . . by [NextEra] . . . and the receipt of PUCT Approval (without the imposition of a Burdensome Condition) [wa]s the only condition . . . not satisfied or waived in accordance with this Agreement.” About a year after approving the Agreement, and after PUCT expressed concern about the condition, the bankruptcy court granted a motion for reconsideration and disallowed the Termination Fee in the event that the PUCT declines to approve the transaction and, as a result, the agreement is terminated, regardless of whether the Debtors or NextEra subsequently terminates the agreement. Were it not for that order, NextEra would be entitled to the $275 million. The Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting NextEra’s arguments that the motion was untimely and, alternatively, that the motion should have been denied on the merits because the termination fee provision, as originally drafted, was an allowable administrative expense under 11 U.S.C. 503(b). View "In re: Energy Future Holdings" on Justia Law

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Allco Renewable Energy Limited (Allco) appealed the Vermont Public Utility Commission’s (PUC) denial of Allco’s motion to intervene as a party in proceedings concerning whether Green Mountain Power Corporation (GMP) could purchase power generation facilities outside of Vermont. Allco argued that it should have been allowed to intervene because it meets the criteria for intervention set out in the PUC’s own rules. In particular, Allco argued it had a substantial interest in the proceedings both as a ratepayer and as a competing supplier of power. Allco also appealed the PUC’s eventual decision to allow the purchases. The Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the PUC’s denial of Allco’s motion to intervene and accordingly dismissed Allco’s second appeal. View "In re Petition of Green Mountain Power Corp. for Approval to Invest in Hydroelectric Generation Facilities Located Outside Vermont (Allco Renewable Energy Limited, Appellant)" on Justia Law

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Petitioners sought to prevent the expansion of Transco’s interstate natural gas pipeline facilities, arguing that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) violated the Natural Gas Act (NGA), 15 U.S.C. 717–717z and environmental protection statutes, by arbitrarily approving Transco’s proposed project. Petitioners also argued that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) violated state law by improperly issuing permits required under federal law before commencement of construction activities and by denying the petitioners’ request for an adjudicatory hearing to challenge the permits, based only on the NJDEP’s allegedly incorrect belief that the New Jersey regulations establishing the availability of such hearings were preempted by federal law. The Third Circuit concluded that the challenges to FERC’s orders lacked merit because no discharge-creating activity can commence without New Jersey independently awarding Transco with a Section 401 permit; no activities that may result in a discharge can follow as a logical result of just FERC’s issuance of the certificate. FERC adequately addressed the need for the project and its cumulative impacts, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act. The court remanded to NJDEP. NJDEP misunderstood the scope of the NGA’s assignment of jurisdiction to the federal Courts of Appeals, rendering unreasonable the sole basis for its denial of the petitioners’ request for a hearing--preemption. View "Township of Bordentown v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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The Natural Gas Act (NGA) requires a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 15 U.S.C. 717f(c)(1)(A), for construction or operation of a natural gas pipeline, which requires compliance with other legal mandates. Transco sought a Certificate for expansion of its natural-gas distribution network, then received Water Quality Certification under the Clean Water Act, (CWA) 33 U.S.C. 1341(a)(1) from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP), subject to conditions requiring a permit under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, for discharges of water during hydrostatic pipeline testing, and state permits, covering erosion and sediment disturbance and obstructions and encroachments on Pennsylvania waters. Transco challenged the conditions in the Third Circuit under the NGA and before the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board. The Third Circuit concluded that it has jurisdiction; NGA provides “original and exclusive jurisdiction" to review a state agency’s “action” taken “pursuant to Federal law to issue . . . any . . . concurrence” that federal law requires for the construction of a natural-gas transportation facility. PADEP issues Water Quality Certifications “pursuant to federal law," which requires PADEP concurrence before construction can proceed. The court then rejected claims that PADEP failed to provide public notice the CWA requires and acted arbitrarily by issuing a Certification that was immediately effective despite being conditioned on obtaining additional permits; that PADEP’s decision violated the Due Process and Takings Clauses, given that the approval was necessary for Transco to begin eminent domain proceedings; and that the approval violated PADEP’s obligation to safeguard the Commonwealth’s natural resources. View "Delaware Riverkeeper Network v. Secretary Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that the Public Service Commission (Commission) acted within its authority when it approved the acquisition of Pepco Holdings, Inc. (PHI) and its utility subsidiaries by Exelon Corporation (Exelon). The General Assembly has provided for judicial review of decisions of the Commission assessing and either approving or rejecting an acquisition of a company that supplies electricity in the State, including a merger with another utility. At issue here was the Commission’s approval of the acquisition of PHI and its utility subsidiaries by Exelon. The circuit court and Court of Special Appeals concluded that the Commission acted within its authority when it approved the transaction. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the Commission properly considered the factors listed in Md. Code Pub. Util. Cos. 6-105(g)(2) and exercised its discretion as to what weight to accord factors other than those specifically listed in the statute; and (2) the Commission acted neither arbitrarily nor capriciously in evaluating harm to renewable and distributed generation markets. View "Office of People's Counsel v. Maryland Public Service Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that voter approval was not required for a transfer from a utility’s enterprise fund to the city’s general fund. Cal. Const. art. XIIIC prohibits local governments from imposing or increasing any tax without voter approval. Any charge imposed for a service or product that does not exceed the reasonable costs of providing it is excepted from the definition of tax. The City of Redding operated an electric utility as a department of its city government. At issue was whether an annual interfund transfer from the utility’s enterprise fund to the city’s general fund required voter approval where the transfer was intended to compensate the general fund for costs of services that other city departments provide to the utility. The Supreme Court held that because neither the budgetary transfer nor the rate the city charged its utility customers constituted a tax, voter approval was not required. View "Citizens for Fair REU Rates v. City of Redding" on Justia Law

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Through a Department of Energy grant, Naperville received $11 million to update its grid and began replacing its residential, analog energy meters with digital “smart meters.” Traditional energy meters typically collect monthly energy consumption in a single lump figure once per month. Smart meters often collect thousands of readings every month, showing the amount of electricity being used inside a home and when it is used. This data reveals information about the happenings inside a home because individual appliances have distinct energy-consumption patterns; researchers can predict the appliances that are present in a home and when they are used. While some cities allow residents to decide whether to adopt smart meters, Naperville’s residents cannot opt out of the smart-meter program. Naperville stores the data for up to three years. Concerned citizens sued, alleging that Naperville’s smart meters reveal “intimate personal details and that collection of this data constitutes an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment as an unreasonable search and invasion of privacy under the Illinois Constitution. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal. The data collection constitutes a search but, given the significant government interests in the program and the diminished privacy interests at stake, the search is reasonable. View "Naperville Smart Meter Awareness v. City of Naperville" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed this appeal challenging the promulgation of a final rule by the Public Utilities Commission, holding that this Court does not have original jurisdiction over appeals from administrative rulemaking proceedings. Appellants, including the Conservation Law Foundation, the Industrial Energy Consumers’ Group, ReVision Energy, LLC, and the Natural Resources Council of Maine, argued, among other things, that, in promulgating the rule at issue, the Commission violated several provisions of the Maine Administrative Procedure Act, that the rule violated statutory ban on exit fees, and that the rule unjustly discriminated. The Commission argued that Me. Rev. Stat. 35-A, 1320 does not authorize appeals to the Law Court when the Commission acts pursuant to its rulemaking authority. The Supreme Judicial Court agreed, holding that any appeal from Commission rulemaking proceedings must be brought originally in the Superior Court. View "Conservation Law Foundation v. Public Utilities Commission" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Court of Appeals was the correct interpretation of Md. Code Ann. Pub. Util. (PU) 4-210, known as the STRIDE statute, which allows Maryland gas companies more timely cost recovery if they submit plans that increase the pace of natural gas infrastructure improvements. The Maryland Public Service Commission, the circuit court of Montgomery County, and the court of special appeals each concluded that the STRIDE statute provides accelerated cost recovery only for gas infrastructure projects located in the State. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the STRIDE statute’s legislative history supports this Court’s interpretation that PU 4-210 is unambiguous and requires that “gas infrastructure improvements” be located “in the State” in order promptly to recover investment costs separate from base rate proceedings. View "Washington Gas Light Co. v. Maryland Public Service Commission" on Justia Law