The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission entered an order requiring Qwest Corporation, a successor Bell operating company, to submit for review and approval a price list and supporting rationale for certain telecommunication network facilities Qwest was required to provide to its Minnesota competitors under 47 U.S.C. 271. Qwest sought judicial review and declaratory relief in the district court, arguing the Commission's order was preempted by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The district court concluded federal law and regulations did not preempt the Commission's order. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the Commission's order impermissibly intruded on federal authority to regulate rates for elements required under section 271 and interfered with the purpose and objectives of Congress and the FCC; and (2) therefore, the order was preempted by the Act and the FCC's implementing regulations and rulings. View "Qwest Corp. v. Minn. Pub. Util. Comm'n" on Justia Law
Posted in: Constitutional Law, Government & Administrative Law, U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, Utilities Law
Plaintiff, in these related appeals, was the Trustee in the Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases of LGI Energy Solutions, Inc. and LGI Data Solutions Company, LLC, which were in the business of providing utility-management and billing services to restaurants and other customers. These consolidated appeals involved seven adversary proceedings by the Trustee to avoid payments made by LGI Energy to defendant utilities prior to the bankruptcy. The Trustee contended that such payments were preferential and/or fraudulent transfers under the Bankruptcy Code and applicable state law. The Bankruptcy Court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants based on its conclusion that the payments they received for the utilities were not an asset of either debtor. The court held that the bankruptcy court's ruling was inconsistent with Minnesota law and Eighth Circuit precedent. If a trust or agency relationship was intended to be created by the agreements between LGI Energy and its customers, then defendants were nevertheless required to prove that LGI Energy honored that relationship and treated the funds accordingly. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded. View "Stoebner v. Consumers Energy Company, et al." on Justia Law
Sierra Club, et al. v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, et al.; Hempstead County Hunting Club, Inc. v. Southwestern Elec. Power Co., et al.
The Sierra Club and several related parties brought this action against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) seeking to set aside a Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq., permit (the section 404 permit) the Corps had issued to the Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) which planned to construct a new power plant. SWEPCO subsequently appealed the preliminary injunctions ordered by the district court, arguing that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction and that the district court abused its discretion in granting the preliminary injunction. The court held that the district court did not err in concluding that the Sierra Club and Hunting Club had Article III standing. The court also held that plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success where there was ample evidence in the record to show that plaintiffs were likely to succeed on at least three of their claims; that there was a likelihood of irreparable harm; that the balance of harms weighed in favor of an injunction; and that the public interest that might be injured by a preliminary injunction did not outweigh the public interest that would be served by the injunction. Accordingly, the court affirmed the preliminary injunction. View "Sierra Club, et al. v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, et al.; Hempstead County Hunting Club, Inc. v. Southwestern Elec. Power Co., et al." on Justia Law
Posted in: Energy, Oil & Gas Law, Environmental Law, Government & Administrative Law, U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, Utilities Law
St. Charles Tower, Inc. (St. Charles) filed suit against defendants after they declined to issue St. Charles a conditional use permit necessary to construct a proposed cell-phone tower in Franklin County. After the district court entered a consent judgment, trustees of a homeowner's association that opposed construction of the tower (Intervenors) sought to intervene in the litigation in order to challenge the consent judgment on the grounds that it violated state law. The district court granted their motion to intervene but denied their motion to alter, amend, or vacate the consent judgment and intervenors appealed. The court held that the consent judgment impermissibly circumvented sections 32 and 81 of the Land Use Regulations. Therefore, the court held that the district court erred in holding that the consent judgment did not violate state law and that any violation was justified as a necessary remedy for a violation of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C. 332(c)(7)(B)(v). Accordingly, the court reversed the denial of intervenors' motion and remanded for further proceedings. View "St. Charles Tower, Inc. v. Kurtz, et al." on Justia Law