Justia Utilities Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Construction Law
Minn-Kota Ag Products, Inc. v. N.D. Public Service Commission, et al.
Minn-Kota Ag. Products, Inc. appealed a district court order dismissing Minn-Kota’s appeal of findings of fact, conclusions of law and order issued by the North Dakota Public Service Commission (PSC) for lack of standing and affirming an administrative law judge’s (ALJ) order denying Minn-Kota’s petition to intervene. In 2017, Minn-Kota began construction of a large, $20 million grain handling facility near the municipalities of Barney and Mooreton, North Dakota. During construction of the facility, Minn-Kota received proposals to provide electric power to the facility from Otter Tail Power Co., an electric public utility, and Dakota Valley Electric Cooperative, a rural electric cooperative. Minn-Kota determined Otter Tail would provide cheaper and more reliable electric service and chose Otter Tail as its preferred provider. Dakota Valley protested Otter Tail’s application and requested a hearing. Otter Tail and Dakota Valley were represented at the hearing, and each offered evidence and testimony. Minn- Kota was not a formal party represented at the hearing and, other than the testimony offered by Schuler, Minn-Kota did not contribute to the hearing. In December 2017, the PSC held a work session to contemplate and discuss Otter Tail’s application. The concerns expressed by the PSC at the work session made it clear the PSC was likely going to deny Otter Tail’s application. As a result, Minn-Kota submitted a petition to intervene, which an ALJ determined Minn-Kota submitted after the deadline to intervene had passed, and denied it. Minn-Kota argued it has standing to appeal the PSC’s decision because it participated in the proceedings before the PSC, and the PSC’s decision should be reversed because it was not supported by the facts or law. In the alternative, Minn-Kota argued the case should have been remanded to the PSC and it should have been allowed to intervene and introduce additional evidence into the record. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined Minn-Kota had standing, but did not provide a compelling argument on how Otter Tail did not adequately represent its interests at the administrative hearing or throughout the entirety of the proceedings. Therefore, the Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and thus affirmed the PSC's order. View "Minn-Kota Ag Products, Inc. v. N.D. Public Service Commission, et al." on Justia Law
Jacks v. City of Santa Barbara
Charges that constitute compensation for the use of government property are not subject to Proposition 218’s voter approval requirements. To constitute compensation for a property interest, however, the amount of the charge must bear a reasonable relationship to the value of the property interest, and to the extent the charge exceeds any reasonable value of the interest, it is a tax and requires voter approval.Plaintiffs contended that a one percent charge that was separately stated on electricity bills issued by Southern California Edison (SCE) was not compensation for the privilege of using property owned by the City of Santa Barbara but was instead a tax imposed without voter approval, in violation of Proposition 218. The City argued that this separate charge was the fee paid by SCE to the City for the privilege of using City property in connection with the delivery of electricity. The Supreme Court held that the complaint and stipulated facts adequately alleged the basis for a claim that the surcharge bore no reasonable relationship to the value of the property interest and was therefore a tax requiring voter approval under Proposition 218. The court remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Jacks v. City of Santa Barbara" on Justia Law
Utilities Board of the City of Opp v. Shuler Brothers, Inc.
The Utilities Board of the City of Opp appealed a circuit court's order that denied its motion to dismiss a third-party complaint filed by Shuler Brothers, Inc. The Alabama Electric Company (AEC) had filed suit against Shuler Brothers seeking recovery for services performed and for breach of contract when Shuler Brothers refused to pay an invoice for repairs AEC made to some equipment. Shuler Brothers argued that the repairs did not solve its equipment issue. Shuler Brothers alleged the Utilities Board was negligent in maintaining power lines going to its facility that was part of its equipment troubles. In its motion to dismiss, the Utilities Board argued that a two-year statute of limitations applied to Shuler Brothers' claim, and that the alleged negligence was not discovered until AEC served Shuler Brothers with its complaint. Upon review of the matter, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's judgment to deny the Utilities Board's motion to dismiss; reversed the circuit court's decision denying Shuler Brothers' breach-of-contract claim; and reversed the circuit court's denial of the Board's motion to dismiss Shuler Brothers' negligence claim. View "Utilities Board of the City of Opp v. Shuler Brothers, Inc. " on Justia Law