Justia Utilities Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Energy, Oil & Gas Law
Citizens of State of Fla. v. Clark
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Public Service Commission allocating partial replacement power costs to Duke Energy Florida, LLC (DEF), holding that the Office of Public Counsel (OPC) waived the arguments it presented on appeal.In its appeal to the Supreme Court for judicial review OPC raised a series of legal challenges to the Commission's authority to assign partial costs and consider mitigating factors when making a determination that DEF's actions were "reasonable and prudent" and argued that the Commission erred in interpreting and applying the burden of proof. DEF argued in response that the issues were not preserved for appellate review. The Supreme Court agreed and affirmed, holding that the issues raised by OPC were not properly preserved and were thus waived. View "Citizens of State of Fla. v. Clark" on Justia Law
Floridians Against Increased Rates, Inc. v. Clark
In this review of a decision of the Public Service Commission relating to rates charged by Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) for the provision of electric service, the Supreme Court held that the Commission had not supplied a basis for meaningful judicial review of its conclusion that the settlement agreement provided a reasonable resolution of the issues, established reasonable rates, and was in the public interest.The settlement agreement at issue was between FPL and seven parties that intervened in the matter and permitted FPL to increase its base rates and service charges. After hearing arguments in favor of and against the settlement agreement the Commission concluded that the agreement "provides a reasonable resolution of all issues raised, establishes rates that are fair, just, and reasonable, and is in the public interest." The Supreme Court reversed, holding that remand was required because the Commission failed to perform its duty to explain its reasoning. View "Floridians Against Increased Rates, Inc. v. Clark" on Justia Law
In re Application of East Ohio Gas Co.
The Supreme Court affirmed the orders of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio approving a stipulation that authorized Dominion Energy Ohio to implement its capital expenditure program rider (CEP Rider), holding that the Commission's orders were not unlawful or unreasonable.Dominion filed an application to recover the costs of its capital expenditure program by establishing the CEP Rider at issue. Dominion and the Commission jointly filed a stipulation asking the Commission to approve the application subject to the staff's recommendations. The Commission modified and approved the stipulation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commission did not violate an important regulatory principle in adopting the 9.91 percent rate of return; (2) the Commission did not inconsistently apply its precedent; (3) the Commission did not violate Ohio Rev. Code 4903.09; and (4) Appellants' manifest-weight-of-the-evidence argument failed. View "In re Application of East Ohio Gas Co." on Justia Law
Driftless Area Land Conservancy v. Rural Utilities Service
Utility companies responsible for a planned electric transmission line asked the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to allow construction across the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge alongside an existing road and railroad. Rural Utilities Service completed an environmental impact statement under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4332(2)(C). FWS adopted the statement and issued a right-of-way permit.While litigation was pending, the utility companies sought to slightly alter the route and asked FWS to consider a land exchange. FWS discovered that it had relied on incorrect easement documents in issuing its original determination. It revoked the determination and permit but promised to consider the proposed land exchange. The district court ruled in favor of the environmental groups but declined to enjoin ongoing construction of the project on private land outside the Refuge.The Seventh Circuit vacated in part, first rejecting a mootness argument. FWS has revoked the compatibility determination but has not promised never to issue a new permit. However, FWS’s current position does not meet the criteria of finality. Whatever hardship the plaintiffs face comes not from FWS’s promise to consider a land exchange but from the Utilities’ decision to build on their own land, so the district court erred in reviewing the merits of the proposed land exchange. Plaintiffs’ request for relief against the Utilities under NEPA likewise is premature. Adopting the environmental impact statement did not “consummate” the decisionmaking process. View "Driftless Area Land Conservancy v. Rural Utilities Service" on Justia Law
Direct Energy Services, LLC v. Public Utilities Regulatory Authority
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) establishing a regulatory framework for a certain renewable energy product, holding that the trial court correctly correctly determined that the reactions did not violate the dormant commerce clause.In 2020, PURA imposed a series of restrictions on retail electric suppliers offering Connecticut customers voluntary products, known as voluntary renewable offers (VROs), consisting of renewable energy credits (REC) bundled with electric supply. One of the restrictions at issue, the geographic restriction, prohibited VROs from containing RECs sourced outside of particular geographic regions. The other restriction, the marketing restriction, required suppliers to provide clear language informing consumers that a VRO backed by RECs is an energy product backed by RECs rather than a renewable energy itself. Plaintiffs argued that both restrictions violated the dormant commerce clause. The trial court rejected Plaintiffs' commerce clause arguments as to each restriction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no error. View "Direct Energy Services, LLC v. Public Utilities Regulatory Authority" on Justia Law
Vote Solar v. Public Service Comm’n
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Public Service Commission (PSC) denying in part and granting in part motions for reconsideration of an order it issued setting forth the inputs it would use to calculate the export credit rate (ECR), holding that this Court lacked jurisdiction as to certain issues and, as to the two remaining issues, the PSC did not exceed the bounds of its authority.The export credit rate system at issue in this case was created to eventually replace the "net metering" program for customers who generated electricity. The PSC engaged in a lengthy public process to decide what factors to consider in calculating the ECR. After the PSC issued an order setting forth the inputs to use for the ECR Appellants filed motions for reconsideration. The PSC granted in part the motions, agreeing to reconsider some of the ECR calculation's components. The Supreme Court dismissed the petition as to issues for which the Court lacked jurisdiction and otherwise denied the motion, holding that the PSC did not exceed the bounds of its authority. View "Vote Solar v. Public Service Comm'n" on Justia Law
Environmental Law & Policy Center v. Iowa Utilities Bd.
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court denying Appellant's petition for judicial review of an order of the Iowa Utilities Board approving a regulated public utility's emissions plan and budget, holding that the Board erred in failing to consider certain intervenors' evidence in determining whether the "Emissions Plan and Budget" (EPB) met the statutory requirements.The utility submitted an EPB - its initial plan and budget and subsequent updates - requesting approval for operations and maintenance expenditures associated with emissions controls previously approved at four coal-fueled power plants. The Board granted several motions to intervene in the contested case proceeding, including three environmental parties. Prior to the contested case hearing, the Board approved the utility's EPB. The environmental parties petitioned for judicial review, and the district court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Board erred in rejecting the evidence brought by the intervening parties that the retirement of coal-fueled electric power generated facilities was more cost effective than the utility's plan and budget as outside the scope of Iowa Code 476.6 and thus not relevant. View "Environmental Law & Policy Center v. Iowa Utilities Bd." on Justia Law
In re Haw. Electric Light Co., Inc.
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) rejecting the power purchase agreement between Hu Honua and the Hawai'i Electric light Company, Inc., holding that there was no error in the PUC's decision to reject the power purchase agreement between the parties.At issue was the denial of Hua Honua's request for regulatory approval to supply energy to Hawai'i Island using a biomass power plant. In declining to approve the project on remand, the PUC found that the project would produce massive greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and significantly increase costs for rate-payers. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the PUC understood its public interest-minded mission and properly followed this Court's remand instructions to consider the reasonableness of the proposed project's costs in light of its GHG emissions and the impact on Intervenors' right to a clean and healthful environment. View "In re Haw. Electric Light Co., Inc." on Justia Law
In re Petition of the Episcopal Diocese of R.I. for Declaratory Judgment
The Supreme Court dismissed the Episcopal Diocese or Rhode Island's challenge to an order of the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that permitted the Narragansett Electric Company to charge the diocese for electricity transmission costs associated with a proposed solar development project on diocese property in Glocester, holding that the matter was moot.On appeal, the diocese argued that the PUC's order was unlawful and unreasonable for several reasons, including the assertion that the PUC subjected the diocese to a biased proceeding in violation of state law. After the Supreme Court remanded the matter to the PUC for consideration of newly discovered evidence Narragansett determined that the diocese was not subject to the challenged interconnection costs. The Supreme Court declined to address the merits of the diocese's appeal, holding that the matter was moot. View "In re Petition of the Episcopal Diocese of R.I. for Declaratory Judgment" 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