Justia Utilities Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Michigan Supreme Court
Consumers Energy Company v. Storm
Consumers Energy Company filed an action against Brian and Erin Storm, and Lake Michigan Credit Union, seeking to condemn a portion of the Storms’ property for a power-line easement. The Storms challenged the necessity of the easement under the Uniform Condemnation Procedures Act (UCPA). The trial court concluded that Consumers had failed to establish the public necessity of the easement on the Storms’ property and entered an order dismissing Consumers’ action and awarding attorney fees to the Storms. Consumers appealed that order as of right to the Court of Appeals. The Storms moved to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, arguing that under MCL 213.56(6), Consumers could only appeal the trial court’s public-necessity determination by leave granted. The Court of Appeals initially denied the motion by order, but the order was entered without prejudice to further consideration of the jurisdictional issue by the case -call panel. The Court of Appeals case-call panel issued an opinion in which it agreed with the Storms that the Court of Appeals lacked jurisdiction; the Court of Appeals therefore dismissed the portion of Consumers’ appeal challenging the trial court’s determination of public necessity. Despite dismissing the public-necessity portion of Consumers’ appeal, the Court of Appeals addressed Consumers’ challenge to the trial court’s award of attorney fees and vacated the attorney-fee award. The Michigan Supreme Court determined the Court of Appeals should have considered the condemning agency’s appeal as of right and reached the ultimate question of whether the trial court erred by holding that there was no public necessity for the proposed acquisition. “Therefore, it is not yet apparent that the proposed acquisition was improper such that the property owners would be entitled to reimbursement so as to avoid being ‘forced to suffer because of an action that they did not initiate and that endangered, through condemnation proceedings, their right to private property.’” Accordingly, the Supreme Court vacated the analysis construing MCL 213.66(2) in Part III of the Court of Appeals’ opinion, and remanded to that court for further proceedings. View "Consumers Energy Company v. Storm" on Justia Law
In re Reliability Plans of Electric Utilities for 2017-2021
The Association of Businesses Advocating Tariff Equity (ABATE) (Docket Nos. 158305 and 158306) and Energy Michigan, Inc. (Docket Nos. 158307 and 158308) each appealed an order of the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) implementing MCL 460.6w. The MPSC order imposed a local clearing requirement on individual alternative electric suppliers. The local clearing requirement represented the amount of capacity resources that were required to be in the local resource zone in which the electric supplier’s demand was served. ABATE and Energy Michigan challenged the MPSC’s interpretation of MCL 460.6w, and Energy Michigan further asserted that the MPSC order improperly imposed new rules that were not promulgated in compliance with the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). The Court of Appeals consolidated the appeals and reversed the MPSC’s decision, holding that no provision of MCL 460.6w clearly and unmistakably authorized the MPSC to impose a local clearing requirement on individual alternative electric suppliers and that the MPSC could impose a local clearing requirement only exactly as MISO does—on a zonal basis. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals concluded that the MPSC was not permitted to impose a local clearing requirement on any provider individually. Because the Court of Appeals held that MCL 460.6w did not provide the MPSC with the authority to impose a local clearing requirement on individual alternative electric suppliers, the Court of Appeals did not reach the APA argument. The Michigan Supreme Court reversed, finding that despite the identical language describing the MPSC’s authority for determining both elements of its capacity obligation, the Court of Appeals concluded that there was a difference based on its review of the entire statute. The Court surmised that conclusion was unfounded; in fact, a contextual review of the statute supported the opposite conclusion. The Supreme Court determined the Court of Appeals misread MCL 460.6w when it read into the statutory text a requirement that the MPSC impose Michigan’s local clearing requirement using the same methodology the Mid-continent Independent System Operator did. The Court of Appeals further misunderstood the differences between the wholesale and retail capacity markets when it held that the MPSC could not impose a local clearing requirement on alternative electric suppliers individually. View "In re Reliability Plans of Electric Utilities for 2017-2021" on Justia Law
City of Holland v. Consumers Energy Co.
In consolidated cases, two municipalities sought to provide electric service through municipal electric utilities. Central to both cases was the applicability Michigan Administrative Code Rule 411 (sometimes referred to as a utility’s right to first entitlement). Rule 460.3411 (Rule 411) was inapplicable when a municipal utility is involved and has not consented to the jurisdiction of the Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC). Additionally, under the circumstances of each case, the Michigan Supreme Court found there was not a customer already receiving service from another utility; accordingly, MCL 124.3 did not prevent either plaintiff from providing electric service. View "City of Holland v. Consumers Energy Co." on Justia Law
Great Wolf Lodge of Traverse City, LLC v. Public Service Commân
Plaintiff Great Wolf Lodge of Traverse City, LLC (Lodge) is a water park that sits on former farmland. In 2000, the Lodge annexed a new portion of the former farmland to expand its premises. Defendant Cherryland Electric Cooperative (Cherryland) ran an electric line to the former farm. Cherryland insisted that it had exclusive rights to provide electric service to the Lodge. The Lodge did not protest Cherrylandâs assertion in order to keep its expansion project on track. The new Cherryland contract called for discounted rates. Over the course of the contract, Cherryland unilaterally raised the rates. The Lodge filed suit seeking a refund of excess rates it paid to Cherryland, and to have the ability to choose its own electric service provider. A hearing officer would rule in favor of the Lodge on the rate refund, but would not allow it to choose its own service provider, citing Cherrylandâs âright of first entitlementâ that dated back to when it provided service to the farm. The appellate court reversed the hearing officer. One of the issues on appeal to the Supreme Court was whether Cherrylandâs âright of first entitlementâ stopped when the property ownership changed hands. The Court concluded that the right is not extinguished when ownership changes. The Court reversed the judgment of the appellate court, and reinstated the decision of the hearing officer.