Justia Utilities Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Ohio
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In this dispute over whether Ohio Power Company, a private agency authorized to appropriate property under Ohio Rev. Code 163.01(B) and (C), was entitled to any of the necessary presumptions set forth in Ohio Rev. Code 163.09(B)(1) in establishing the necessity of easements through eminent domain to upgrade electric transmission lines, the Supreme Court held that the court of appeals properly reversed the trial court's determination that the appropriations at issue were necessary.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the term "appropriation" in Ohio Rev. Code 163.09(B)(1) means the appropriation of the "parcel or contiguous parcels in a single common ownership, or interest or right therein," as identified in the petition filed by an agency under Ohio Rev. Code 163.05; (2) because neither Ohio Power's board of directors nor the Ohio Siting Board reviewed the appropriations Ohio Power was not entitled to a rebuttable presumption under section 163.09(B)(1)(a) or an irrebuttable presumption under section 163.09(B)(1)(c); and (3) Ohio Power was entitled to a rebuttable presumption under section 163.09(B)(1)(b) because it provided evidence of the necessity for the appropriations. The Court remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Ohio Power Co. v. Burns" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the Public Utilities Commission authorizing a recovery mechanism referred to as the solar-generation-fund rider (Rider SGF), holding that remand to the Commission was required as to one issue.In 2021, the Commission issued an order establishing Rider SGF as the recovery mechanism that would be used to provide revenue for a "solar generation fund" by generating funds through a monthly retail charge to customers that would be billed and collected by Ohio electric distribution utilities. The Ohio Manufacturers' Association Energy Group appealed, challenging the amount and structure of Rider SGF. The Supreme Court remanded for clarification on the issue on the whether the Commission erred when it determined that customers must also pay the commercial activity tax through Rider SGF. View "In re Establishing the Solar Generation Fund Rider" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal concluding that a municipality does not violate Ohio Const. art. XVIII, 6 by selling a surplus of electricity to customers outside the municipality's boundaries, holding that the court of appeals did not err.The City of Cleveland sold outside its boundaries approximately four percent of the electricity it sold inside its boundaries. Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company (CEI) brought this complaint arguing that the electricity the City sold extraterritorially as surplus violated this Court's decision in Toledo Edison Co. v. Bryan, 737 N.E.2d 529 (2000) and the Ohio Constitution. The trial court granted summary judgment for the City. The court of appeals reversed, determining (1) Article XVIII, Section 6 does not require a municipality to buy the precise amount of electricity required by its inhabitants at any given time, and (2) questions of material fact existed as to whether the City obtained surplus electricity for the sole purpose of selling it to a neighboring city. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that while a municipality may not acquire excess capacity for the sole purpose of reselling it outside the municipality's territorial boundaries, the municipality is not required to purchase the exact amount of electricity necessary to satisfy the current needs of its territorial customers. View "Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. v. Cleveland" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) granting certification to FirstEnergy Advisors, a competitive retail electric service provider, holding that the order in this case fell short of the requirement set forth in Ohio Rev. Code 4903.09 that PUCO file "findings of fact and written opinions setting forth the reasons prompting the decisions arrived at."Two organizations in this case intervened in the PUCO proceedings and objected to the certification. Despite the objections, PUCO granted the certification request and issued a "barebones" order offering no explanation as to how FirstEnergy Advisors met the applicable legal requirements. The Supreme Court reversed PUCO's certification decision and remanded the matter to PUCO for further proceedings, holding that PUCO's order violated action 4903.09 because it failed to explain the reasoning and factual grounds for granting FirstEnergy Advisors' application. View "In re Application of FirstEnergy Advisors for Certification as a Competitive Retail Electric Service Power Broker & Aggregator" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Ohio Power Siting Board granting Duke Energy Ohio, Inc. a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need to construct, operate, and maintain a natural-gas pipeline, holding that the Board's decision was not manifestly against the weight of the evidence and was not so clearly unsupported by the record as to show a mistake or willful disregard of duty.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) assuming without deciding that the Board misapplied its filing requirements, the error was harmless; (2) the Board did not err in determining that Duke's proposal met the conditions of Ohio Rev. Code 4906.10(A)(1); (3) the Board properly accounted for the interest of safety in evaluating Duke's proposal; (4) the Board did not err by not requiring Duke to evaluate the pipeline's impact against the City of Blue Ash's most recent comprehensive plan; (5) the Board did not err in evaluating the pipeline's estimated tax benefits; and (6) the Board did not deprive Blue Ash of due process of law. View "In re Application of Duke Energy Ohio, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) allowing a gas company to charge its customers higher rates, holding that the PUCO erred by approving the rate increase.At issue was whether Suburban Natural Gas Company's customers must pay for a 4.9-mile extension of the company's pipeline. The PUCO determined that the pipeline extension met the "used-and-useful" test as of a specified date and approved the rate increase. See Ohio Rev. Code 4909.15(A)(1). The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the PUCO looked beyond whether the entire 4.9-mile extension was used and useful on the applicable date and considered whether it was a prudent investment because it might prove useful in the future; and (2) therefore, the PUCO erred in evaluating the rate increase. View "In re Application of Suburban Natural Gas Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the orders of the Public Utilities Commission requiring Allied Erecting & Dismantling Co., Inc. to pay for electricity consumed during a three-year period in which the Ohio Edison Company failed to bill Allied for one of its electric meters, holding that Allied failed to demonstrate reversible error.Ohio Edison estimated the amount owed based on Allied's historical electricity usage. The Commission determined that Ohio Edison provided sufficient evidence supporting the accuracy of its estimates and that Ohio Edison's estimated back bill was fair and reasonable. Allied appealed, challenging the Commission's orders on two grounds. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Allied failed to demonstrate that the Commission erred in deciding the complaint in Ohio Edison's favor. View "In re Complaint of Allied Erecting & Dismantling Co. v. Ohio Edison Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) dismissing a complaint against a company that provided submetering services on the grounds that it did not have jurisdiction over the claims, holding that PUCO inappropriately applied a jurisdictional test of its own making.The PUCO's jurisdiction is provided by statute, and the PUCO generally has jurisdiction over any business that is a public utility. In dismissing the complaint in this case, the PUCO did not look to the statutory scheme to determine whether Nationwide Energy Partners, LLC, the submeterer, was a public utility. Instead, the PUCO used a test set forth in a 1992 PUCO order and recently modified by the PUCO to determine the extent of its jurisdiction. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the PUCO's jurisdiction is established by statute, not an agency-created test; and (2) therefore, this case is remanded for the PUCO to determine whether it has jurisdiction based upon the jurisdictional statute. View "Wingo v. Nationwide Energy Partners, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the orders of the Public Utilities Commission finding that intervening appellee Ohio Edison Company's 2017 earnings were not significantly excessive, holding that the Commission's decision to exclude revenue resulting from Ohio Edison's Distribution Modernization Rider (DMR) from the earnings test was not reasonable.Electric distribution utilities that opt of provide service under an electric security plan must undergo an annual earnings review by Commission. If the Commission finds that the plan resulted in significantly excessive earnings compared to similar companies, the utility must return the excess to its customers. The Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel appealed from the Commission's orders finding that Edison's 2017 earnings were not significantly excessive. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Commission's exclusion from the earnings test revenue resulting from the DMR, which was approved as part of Edison's electric security plan, was not reasonable. View "In re Determination of Existence of Significantly Excessive Earnings for 2017 Under the Electric Security Plan of Ohio Edison Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a common pleas court has subject-matter jurisdiction to determine whether an easement granting a public utility the right to trim, cut and remove trees, limbs, underbrush or other obstructions permits the public utility to use herbicide to control vegetation within the easement.At issue was whether a public utility may remove vegetation from an easement by use of herbicide. The court of common pleas dismissed this matter as falling within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) this case was not within the exclusion jurisdiction of the PUCO and may be heard and decided by the court of common pleas; and (2) the court of appeals went beyond the narrow issue presented on appeal when it examined the merits of the case and determined that the language of the easements was ambiguous. View "Coder v. Ohio Edison Co." on Justia Law