Justia Utilities Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the North Carolina Utilities Commission addressing Dominion Energy North Carolina's application for a general increase in its North Carolina retail rates, holding that Dominion's challenges to the Commission's order were unavailing.In the order at issue, the Commission authorized Dominion to calculate its North Carolina retail rates by, inter alia, amortizing certain costs. Dominion appealed, arguing that the Commission acted capriciously and arbitrarily in failing to follow applicable precedent. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission's order was supported by competent, substantial evidence and that the Commission adequately explained the basis for the portions of its decision that Dominion challenged on appeal. View "State ex rel. Utilities Commission v. Virginia Electric & Power Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Public Service Commission (PSC), which approved the application of Black Hills Nebraska Gas, LLC seeking an enlargement or extension of its natural gas mains in Sarpy County, holding that there was no error.On appeal, the Metropolitan Utilities District (MUD) contended that Black Hills' application was contrary to a 2010 order that MUD argued conclusively established that it was in the public interest for MUD to provide natural gas service to the area at issue in the application. The Supreme Court disagreed and affirmed, holding that the PSC had authority to determine the public interest with respect to the current application. View "In re Application No. P-12.32 of Black Hills Nebraska Gas, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court dismissing this case claiming that the Traverse Ridge Special Service District needed either to stop charging members The Cove at Little Valley Homeowners Association for services it had never provided or to start plowing snow from private roads in front of homes in the Cove, holding that the district court erred in part.The Service District filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim because the Draper City Code did not require it to service private roads and because the Homeowners Association needed to bring its challenge in a manner dictated by the Utah Tax Code. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Cove's first cause of action but reversed its dismissal of the second reversed in part, holding that the district court erred when it concluded that the assessment its members paid to the Service District was a tax as a matter of law. View "Cove at Little Valley Homeowners Ass'n v. Traverse Ridge Special Service District" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Houston voters approved “Proposition One,” allowing the city to create a “Pay-As-You-Go” Dedicated Drainage and Street Renewal (DDSR) Fund. Perez and others filed an election contest while the city enacted the Drainage Fee Ordinance (DFO), creating a new public utility and requiring Houston to establish drainage fees “against all real property in the city subject to such charges” and “provide drainage for all real property in the city on payment of drainage charges unless the property is exempt.” The DFO based the drainage fees on the benefited property’s type and square footage. Failure to pay drainage fees carried various penalties.In 2015, the Supreme Court held that Proposition One’s ballot language was misleading, rendering the Amendment invalid. Perez then challenged Houston’s assessment, collection, and expenditure of the drainage fee. In 2018, Houston passed a new charter amendment curing many of the defects Perez alleged in the drainage fee ordinance. Perez was left with ongoing claims for reimbursement of the drainage fees she paid before 2018 and for an injunction against the future expenditure of fees collected before 2018. The Texas Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of those claims but remanded to allow Perez to replead in light of intervening events. Perez’s claims required her to articulate a viable theory of the DFO’s illegality to overcome Houston’s governmental immunity; her only theory failed as a matter of law. View "Perez v. Turner" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing North Star Development, LLC's petition for judicial review of the Montana Public Service Commission's (PSC) August 2020 rate determination regarding North Star's 2019 application for water and sewer utility rate increase authorizations, holding there was no error.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the district court correctly concluded that North Star failed to exhaust all available administrative remedies, as required by Mont. Code Ann. 2-4-702(1)(a); (2) the correct jurisdictional basis for dismissal of a petition for judicial review due to failure to exhaust administrative remedies is a lack of procedural justiciability rather than lack of subject matter jurisdiction; and (3) the district court did not commit reversible error by failing to consider North Star's asserted waiver and equitable estoppel defenses. View "North Star Development, LLC v. Montana Public Service Commission" on Justia Law

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The Oklahoma Development Finance Authority petitioned the Oklahoma Supreme Court to approve the issuance of ratepayer-backed bonds pursuant to the February 2021 Regulated Utility Consumer Protection Act, 74 O.S.2021, ch. 110A-1, sections 9070-9081. The Oklahoma Development Finance Authority sought to issue bonds to cover the debt incurred by Summit Utilities Oklahoma from unprecedented fuel costs during a February 2021 winter weather event. Summit Utilities’ ratepayers would then fund the bond payments through a monthly charge. The ratepayer-backed bonds would allow customers to pay their utility bills at a lower amount over a longer period of time. No protestants challenged the proposed bonds. The Supreme Court assumed original jurisdiction and held that the ratepayer-backed bonds were properly authorized under the Act and were constitutional. View "In the Matter of the Application of the Oklahoma Development Finance Authority" on Justia Law

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The Oklahoma Development Finance Authority petitioned the Oklahoma Supreme Court to approve the issuance of ratepayer-backed bonds pursuant to the February 2021 Regulated Utility Consumer Protection Act, 74 O.S.2021, ch. 110A-1, sections 9070-9081. The Oklahoma Development Finance Authority sought to issue bonds to cover the debt incurred by Public Service Company of Oklahoma from unprecedented fuel costs during a February 2021 winter weather event. Public Service Company of Oklahoma's ratepayers would then fund the bond payments through a monthly charge. The ratepayer-backed bonds would allow customers to pay their utility bills at a lower amount over a longer period of time. No protestants challenged the proposed bonds. The Supreme Court assumed original jurisdiction and held that the ratepayer-backed bonds were properly authorized under the Act and were constitutional. View "In the Matter of the Application of the Oklahoma Development Finance Authority" on Justia Law

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The Oklahoma Development Finance Authority petitioned the Oklahoma Supreme Court to approve the issuance of ratepayer-backed bonds pursuant to the February 2021 Regulated Utility Consumer Protection Act, 74 O.S.2021, ch. 110A-1, sections 9070-9081. The Oklahoma Development Finance Authority sought to issue bonds to cover the debt incurred by Oklahoma Natural Gas Company from unprecedented fuel costs during a February 2021 winter weather event. Oklahoma Natural Gas Company's ratepayers would then fund the bond payments through a monthly charge. The ratepayer-backed bonds would allow customers to pay their utility bills at a lower amount over a longer period of time. Protestants challenged the proposed bonds on several grounds, focusing on the constitutionality of the bonds. The Supreme Court assumed original jurisdiction and held that the ratepayer-backed bonds were properly authorized under the Act and were constitutional. View "In the Matter of the Application of the Oklahoma Development Finance Authority" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the Town of Westlake, a general-law municipality in which Builder Recovery Services, LLC (BRS), which hauled trash away from construction sites, operated, lacked the authority to impose a percentage-of-revenue license fee on companies like BRS.The Town enacted an ordinance that required trash haulers like BRS to obtain a license to operate in the Town. After the ordinance was adopted the Town cited BRS for operating without a lawsuit in violation of the ordinance. BRS brought this suitm, arguing that BRS lacked statutory authority to require BRS to obtain the license. The district court rejected most of BRS's arguments, and the court of appeals affirmed the portions of the judgment in favor of the Town. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Town of Westlake lacked authority as a general-law municipality to impose a percentage-of-revenue licensing fee on construction trash-hauling companies like BRS. View "Builder Recovery Services, LLC v. Town of Westlake" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court against Landlord and in favor of the City of Baytown in this dispute over unpaid utility bills, holding that Landlord's challenge to the City's enforcement action failed to show the intentional taking or damage for public use necessary to establish a constitutional right to compensation.In this action, Landlord alleging that the City's withholding of utility service to collect payment resulted in the loss of a tenant and the disrepair of his property and was a taking in violation of the state or federal constitution. The trial court concluded that Landlord did not establish an intentional taking of private property for public use. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the City's utility enforcement actions did not establish a regulatory taking of private property as a matter of law. View "City of Baytown v. Schrock" on Justia Law