Justia Utilities Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Ohio
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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

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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