Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Indiana

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Under traditional rate regulation, an energy utility must first make improvements to its infrastructure before it can recover their cost through regulator-approved rate increases to customers. The process is an expensive, onerous rate-making case, which involves a comprehensive review of the utility’s entire business operations. In 2013 the legislature authorized utilities to obtain regulatory preapproval for “designated” improvements to their infrastructure. Under the “TDSIC” Statute, a utility can seek regulatory approval of a seven-year plan that designates eligible improvements, followed by periodic petitions to adjust rates automatically as approved investments are completed. The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission preapproved approximately $20 million in infrastructure investments and authorized increases to NIPSCO’s natural-gas rates under the TDSIC mechanism. The approval referred to categories of improvements that describe broad parameters for future improvements but did not designate those improvements with specificity. The Indiana Supreme Court reversed, in part, concluding that the TDSIC Statute permits periodic rate increases only for specific projects a utility designates, and the Commission approves, in the threshold proceeding and not for multiple-unit projects using ascertainable planning criteria. A utility must specifically identify the projects or improvements at the outset in its seven-year plan and not in later proceedings involving periodic updates. Commission approval of “broad categories of unspecified projects defeats the purpose of having a plan.” View "NIPSCO Industrial Group v. Northern Indiana Public Service Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals dismissing the Indiana Utility and Regulatory Commission (the Commission) in this appeal from the Commission’s decision authorizing a rate and charges increase lower than Hamilton Southeastern Utilities, Inc. (HSE) requested. HSE petitioned the Commission to approve an 8.42 percent increase in its charges. The Commission issued an order authorizing only a 1.17 percent increase in HSE’s rates and charges. HSE appealed, arguing that the Commission erred in excluding some expenses from its rates. The court of appeals granted HSE’s motion to dismiss the Commission, concluding that it was not a proper party to the appeal and then found that the Commission erred in excluding some expenses from HSE’s rates. The Supreme Court held (1) the Commission should not have been dismissed; (2) because the court of appeals found that the Commission acted arbitrarily in excluding SAMCO-related expenses from HSE’s rate calculation without giving the Commission an opportunity to defend its order, this issue must be reversed and remanded to the court of appeals with instructions to permit the Commission an opportunity to brief the issue; and (3) the remainder of the court of appeals’ opinion is summarily affirmed. View "Hamilton Southeastern Utilities, Inc. v. Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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At issue was the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission’s preapproval of approximately $20 million in infrastructure investments, for which the Commission authorized increases to NIPSCO Industrial Group’s natural-gas rates under the mechanism implemented by the so-called “TDSIC” statute. Under the TDSIC statute, a utility can seek regulatory approval of a seven-year plan that designates eligible improvements followed by periodic petitions to adjust rates automatically as approved investments are completed. Some of the largest customers of NIPSCO, an energy utility with more than 800,000 customers in northern Indiana, opposed NIPSCO’s entitlement to favorable rate treatment under the TDSIC statute on the grounds that the disputed projects did not comply with the statute’s requirements. The Commission approved various categories of improvements but did not designate those improvements with specificity. The Supreme Court reversed the Commission’s order in part, holding (1) the TDSIC statute permits periodic rate increases only for specific projects a utility designates, and the Commission approves, at the outset in a utility’s seven-year-plan and not in later proceedings involving periodic updates; and (2) the Commission’s approval of “broad categories of unspecific projects defeats the purpose of having a ‘plan.’” View "NIPSCO Industrial Group v. Northern Public Service Co." on Justia Law