Justia Utilities Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of an action brought by plaintiffs, customers of the DWP, claiming that DWP overcharged for electric power and then transferred the surplus funds to the City, thereby allowing the City to receive what amounts to an unlawful tax under California law. Plaintiffs alleged claims under the Hobbs Act, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), and 42 U.S.C. 1983, as well as claims under state law.The panel agreed with its sister circuits that the Hobbs Act does not support a private civil right of action; held that municipal entities are not subject to liability under RICO when sued in their official capacities, but the RICO claims in this case were asserted against the defendant City and DWP officials in their personal capacities; held that the RICO claim was nonetheless properly dismissed because it failed as a matter of law because it did not adequately allege a predicate act in extortion under California law or the Hobbs Act, mail and wire fraud, or obstruction of justice; and held that, under the Johnson Act, the district court lacked jurisdiction over the the section 1983 claims. Because plaintiffs have provided no basis for concluding that any of these deficiencies could be cured by an amendment of the complaint, and based upon the panel's own thorough review of the record, the panel held that amendment would be futile. View "Abcarian v. Levine" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment for plaintiffs in an action brought under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) against Commissioners of the California Public Utilities Commission. In order to regulate terms under which electric utilities purchase power from Qualifying Cogeneration Facilities (QFs), the Commission established the Renewable Market Adjusting Tariff (Re-MAT) program.The panel held that Re-Mat violates PURPA's requirements, because it caps the amount of energy utilities are required to purchase from QFs and because it sets a market-based rate, rather than one based on the utilities' avoided cost. Because California did not offer a PURPA-complaint alternative, the panel held that PURPA preempts Re-Mat. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion by fashioning equitable relief when it declined to award plaintiffs preferred remedy of a particular contract. View "Winding Creek Solar, LLC v. Peterman" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit granted CPUC's petition for review of FERC's determination that PG&E was eligible for an incentive adder for remaining a member of the California Independent System Operator Corporation (Cal-ISO) when state law prevented PG&E's departure without authorization. The panel held that FERC's determination that PG&E was entitled to incentive adders for remaining in the Cal-ISO was arbitrary and capricious, because FERC did not reasonably interpret Order 679 as justifying summary grants of adders for remaining in a transmission organization. The panel explained that, because FERC's interpretation was unreasonable, FERC's grants of adders to PG&E were an unexplained departure from longstanding policy. Furthermore, FERC created a generic adder in violation of the order. View "CPUC V. FERC" on Justia Law