Justia Utilities Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Ohio
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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

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Public Utilities Commission finding that Suburban Natural Gas Company failed to prove the allegation in its complaint that Columbia Gas Company of Ohio, Inc. had improperly used one of its demand-side management (DSM) programs to unlawfully gain an anticompetitive advantage over Suburban, holding that Suburban failed to demonstrate reversible error.Suburban and Columbia each provided natural-gas distribution service to customers in southern Delaware County. Under the DSM program at issue in this case, Columbia was authorized to offer cash incentives directly to residential builders to construct homes that exceeded certain energy efficiency standards. Suburban filed a complaint alleging that Columbia used this program to pay financial incentives to a home builder to displace Suburban as the provider of natural gas to a planned residential subdivision. The Commission entered an order finding that Suburban had failed to prove the allegations in the complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Suburban failed to demonstrate that the Commission erred in deciding the complaint in Columbia's favor. View "Surburban Natural Gas Co. v. Columbia Gas of Ohio, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) determining that Direct Energy Business, LLC had established that Duke Energy Ohio, Inc.'s failure to provide accurate readings of the generation usage of one of Direct's customers constituted inadequate service, holding that Duke Energy was not acting as a public utility when serving as Direct's meter-data-management agent.Direct purchased electric generation services from the operator of a wholesale power market and resold them to end-use customers through Duke Energy's distribution system. Duke Energy acted as Direct's meter-data-management agent, providing electric usage data about Direct's customers to the wholesale market operator, which then used the data to invoice Direct for its purchases. When Duke Energy failed to calculate usage data for one of Direct's large customers, Direct filed a complaint against Duke Energy with the PUCO. The PUCO ruled in favor of Direct. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded to the PUCO with instructions for it to dismiss Direct's complaint, holding (1) the PUCO lacked jurisdiction over this matter because PUCO's jurisdiction is confined to the supervision of "public utilities"; and (2) Duke Energy did not act as a public utility under the facts of this case. View "In re Complaint of Direct Energy Business, LLC v. Duke Energy Ohio, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Public Utilities Commission approving the portfolio plans submitted by Ohio Edison Company, the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company, and the Toledo Edison Company (collectively, FirstEnergy) but with a modification to include a "cost cap," holding that the Commission lacked authority to impose a cost-recovery cap in this case.In 2016, FirstEnergy submitted an application for approval of their portfolio plans for 2017 through 2019. The commission approved the plans but with a modification to include an annual cap on FirstEnergy's recovery of costs incurred in implementing certain programs not to exceed four percent of its reported 2015 total revenues. FirstEnergy and environmental groups appealed, challenging the cost cap. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for further consideration, holding that the Commission acted unlawfully by including that four percent cost cap. View "In re Application of Ohio Edison Co." on Justia Law

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At issue was whether Intermessage Communications and members of a proposed class of retail cellular-telephone-service subscribers seeking to recover treble damages under Ohio Rev. Code 4905.61 for regulatory violations related to the wholesale cellular-service market committed in the 1990s, as determined by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), had standing to bring this action.The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Eighth District Court of Appeals affirming the trial court’s decision to certify the class and dismissed this matter, holding that Intermessage and the proposed class of retail cellular-service subscribers lacked standing to bring an action pursuant to section 4905.61 because the language of the statute limits recovery of treble damages to the “person, firm, or corporation” directly injured as a result of the “violation, failure, or omission” found by the PUCO. View "Satterfield v. Ameritech Mobile Communications, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Public Utilities Commission that approved a charge referred to as the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) Rider as a component of Ohio Power Company’s third electric-security plan (ESP), holding that the order was not unlawful or unreasonable.Specifically, the Court held (1) the PPA Rider did not recover unlawful transition revenue; (2) the challenges to the Commission’s approval of the PPA Rider under the ESP statute, Ohio Rev. Code 4928.143, were without merit; (3) the challenges to the Commission’s approval of the joint stipulation to resolve the issues in the PPA Rider case failed; and (4) the Commission complied with Ohio Rev. Code 4903.09 when it approved the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation-only PPA Rider. View "In re Application of Ohio Power Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal brought by the Office of Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC) and the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association Energy Group (OMAEG) challenging the Public Utility Commission’s decision to approve the third electric-security plan (ESP) of Ohio Power Company, holding that OCC and OMAEG failed to demonstrate prejudice or harm caused by the ESP order.On appeal, OCC and OMAEG argued that the Commission’s approval of the Power Purchase Agreement Ride as a component of the ESP was reversible error. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding (1) OCC failed to demonstrate that ratepayers suffered actual harm or prejudice from the ESP order; and (2) this Court declines to address the claims that ratepayers were at risk of imminent or future harm rising from the ESP order. View "In re Application of Ohio Power Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed this appeal challenging the Public Utility Commission’s decision to allow Dayton Power and Light Company (DP&L) to withdraw and terminate its second electric-security plan (ESP II), holding that the Commission’s approval of DP&L’s third electric-security plan (ESP III) rendered this case moot.The Commission allowed DP&L to withdraw and terminate its ESP II rate plan and service stability rider (SSR) charge. The ESP II rate plan and its SSR charge were then replaced by ESP III, which the Commission approved. Appellant’s appealed the Commission’s order regarding ESP II. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal as moot, holding that because there was no remedy that the Court could legally order, the appeal constituted only a request for an advisory ruling, and the controversy was no longer live. View "In re Application of Dayton Power & Light Co." on Justia Law