by
The district court lacks the authority to extend the deadline for filing the opening brief in a petition for judicial review of a public utilities commission. Rural Telephone Company (Appellant) filed an application with Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) seeking a change in its telephone service rates and charges. PUCN denied the requested changes. Appellant then filed a timely petition for judicial review in the district court and subsequently requested an extension of time to file its opening memorandum of points and authorities. The district court denied the motion for an extension and dismissed the petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court lacked statutory authority to grant Appellant an extension of time to file its opening memorandum of points and authorities. View "Rural Telephone Co. v. Public Utilities Commission of Nevada" on Justia Law

by
Green Valley filed suit seeking an injunction based on its claim that 7 U.S.C. 1926(b) prohibits the City of Cibolo from encroaching on its sewer service. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the complaint, holding that the district court's interpretation was inconsistent with the statute's plain language. The court held that section 1926(b)'s plain language does not limit the statute's protection to services that have received federal financing. The court declined the city's invitation to read adjectives into section 1926(b) and remanded. View "Green Valley Special Utility District v. City of Cibolo" on Justia Law

by
Petitioners sought review of the FCC's order governing the rates that utility companies may charge telecommunications providers for attaching their networks to utility-owned poles. The Eighth Circuit denied the petition, holding that the term "cost" in the Pole Attachments Act, 47 U.S.C. 224, was ambiguous and the same "cost" definition need not be used to determine the upper bound for cable rates under section 224(d) and the rate for telecommunications providers under section 224(e). Therefore, the statute permits, but did not require, the Cable Rate and the Telecom Rate to diverge. The court rejected petitioners' argument that the FCC's interpretation of the statute rendered section 224(e) superfluous; concluded that the order constituted a reasonable interpretation of the ambiguity in section 224(e); and denied the petition for review. View "Ameren Corp. v. FCC" on Justia Law

by
Flint, which previously obtained water from DWSD, decided to join the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA). The DWSD contract terminated in 2014. Because KWA would take years to construct, Flint chose the Flint River as an interim source. A 2011 Report had determined that river water would need to be treated to meet safety regulations; the cost of treatment was less than continuing with DWSD. Genesee County also decided to switch to KWA but continued to purchase DWSD water during construction. Flint did not upgrade its treatment plants or provide additional safety measures before switching. Residents immediately complained that the water “smelled rotten, looked foul, and tasted terrible.” Tests detected coliform and E. coli bacteria; the water was linked to Legionnaire’s disease. General Motors discontinued its water service, which was corroding its parts. Eventually, the city issued a notice that the drinking water violated standards, but was safe to drink. Subsequent testing indicated high levels of lead and trihalomethane that did not exceed the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) Lead and Copper Rule’s “action level.” The tests indicated that corrosion control treatment was needed to counteract lead levels. The City Council voted to reconnect with DWSD; the vote was overruled by the state-appointed Emergency Manager. The EPA warned of high lead levels; officials distributed filters. Genesee County declared a public health emergency in Flint, advising residents not to drink the water. The Emergency Manager ordered reconnection to DWSD but the supply pipes' protective coating had been damaged by River water. Flint remains in a state of emergency but residents have been billed continuously for water. The Michigan Civil Rights Commission determined that the response to the crisis was “the result of systemic racism.” The Sixth Circuit reversed dismissal, as preempted by SDWA, of cases under 42 U.S.C. 1983. SDWA has no textual preemption of section 1983 claims and SDWA’s remedial scheme does not demonstrate such an intention. The rights and protections found in the constitutional claims diverge from those provided by SDWA. The court affirmed dismissal of claims against state defendants as barred by the Eleventh Amendment. View "Boler v. Earley" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner Daufuskie Island Utility Company ("DIUC") appeals an order of the South Carolina Public Service Commission ("Commission") granting only thirty-nine percent of the additional revenue requested in its application. DIUC applied to the Commission for approval of a new rate schedule which would provide a 108.9% revenue increase. Due to the substantial increase in its tax liability and its inability to seek further revenue increases until July 2014, DIUC entered into an agreement with Beaufort County to pay the back taxes for years 2012, 2013, 2014, and the projected tax for 2015. Critical to this case was the ownership of an elevated water tank, well, water pump, system pipes, and other DIUC equipment located on a site which was sold at a tax sale in 2010 (“Elevated Tank Site”). Due to a clerical error, tax on the property was not paid, and DIUC did not discover the property had been sold until 2012. Although the tax deed purported to convey the property "all and singular . . . with the appurtenances," DIUC presented testimony from the Beaufort County Treasurer, Maria Walls, that the tax deed did not convey "the elevated water tank, the well, the water pump, system pipes, or other DIUC property located on the Elevated Tank[] Site." Despite providing no evidence to the contrary to support its recommendation, ORS proposed excluding the value of the utility equipment located on the property when calculating DIUC's rate base and property taxes. A hearing on the merits of DIUC's application was held in October 2015. The day before the hearing, several intervening property owner associations (POAs) filed a Settlement Agreement they had entered with ORS for the Commission's consideration. Pursuant to the Agreement, ORS and the POAs stipulated to each party's testimony and exhibits in the record, and the parties agreed to accept all of ORS's adjustments and recommendations, with the exception of the bad debt expense for which they agreed to adopt DIUC's proposal.5 At the hearing, DIUC objected to the admission of the Settlement Agreement, arguing it was irrelevant and prejudicial because it bolstered ORS's recommendations without providing any new or additional evidence to support them. Over DIUC's objection, the Commission admitted the Agreement, reasoning it was more probative than prejudicial. The South Carolina Supreme Court found the Commission erred in admitting evidence of the POA settlement; and the Commission’s findings and conclusions with respect to DIUC’s property taxes were not supported by substantial evidence. The Court remanded for a new hearing. View "Daufuskie Island v. Regulatory Staff" on Justia Law

by
Orangeburg challenged the Commission's approval of an agreement between two utilities, alleging that the approval constituted an authorization of the North Carolina Utilities Commission's (NCUC) unlawful regime. The DC Circuit held that Orangeburg has standing to challenge the Commission's approval because, among other reasons, the city has demonstrated an imminent loss of the opportunity to purchase a desired product (reliable and low-cost wholesale power), and because that injury was fairly traceable to the Commission's approval of the agreement at issue. On the merits, the court held that the Commission failed to justify its approval of the agreement's disparate treatment of wholesale ratepayers; to justify the disparity, the Commission relied exclusively on one line from a previous FERC order that, without additional explication, appeared either unresponsive or legally unsound. Accordingly, the court vacated in part the orders approving the agreement and denying rehearing, and remanded. View "Orangeburg, South Carolina v. FERC" on Justia Law

by
Over the last 10 years, the Federal Communications Commission has established rules governing how local governments may regulate cable companies. In 2007, the FCC barred franchising authorities from imposing unreasonable demands on franchise applicants or requiring new cable operators to provide non-cable services. The FCC also read narrowly the phrase “requirements or charges incidental to the awarding . . . of [a] franchise” (47 U.S.C. 542(g)(2)(D)), with the effect of limiting the monetary fees that local franchising authorities can collect. A petition for review was denied. Meanwhile, the FCC sought comment on expanding the application of the First Order’s rules—which applied only to new applicants for a cable franchise—to incumbent providers. In its Second Order, the FCC expanded the First Order’s application as proposed. Local franchising authorities again objected. The FCC finally rejected objections after seven years; the FCC clarified that the Second Order applied to only local (rather than state) franchising processes and published a “Supplemental Final Regulatory Flexibility Act Analysis.” Local governments sought review, arguing that the FCC misinterpreted the Communications Act, and failed to explain the bases for its decisions. The Sixth Circuit granted the petition in part; while “franchise fee” (section 542(g)(1)) can include noncash exactions, the orders were arbitrary to the extent they treat “in-kind” cable-related exactions as “franchise fees” under section 541(g)(1). The FCC’s orders offer no valid basis for its application of the mixed-use rule to bar local franchising authorities from regulating the provision of non-telecommunications services by incumbent cable providers. View "Montgomery County. v. Federal Communications Commission" on Justia Law

by
Section 205 of the Federal Power Act does not allow FERC to make modifications to a proposal that transform the proposal into an entirely new rate of FERC's own making. Electricity generators petitioned for review of FERC's decision modifying PJM's proposed changes to its rate structure. FERC's modifications created a new rate scheme that was significantly different from PJM's proposal and from PJM's prior rate design. The D.C. Circuit held that FERC contravened the limitation on its Section 205 authority. Therefore, the court granted the petitions for review and vacated FERC's orders with respect to several aspects of PJM's proposed rate structure -- the self-supply exemption, the competitive entry exemption, unit-specific review, and the mitigation period. The court remanded to FERC. View "NRG Power Marketing, LLC v. FERC" on Justia Law

by
The Commission determined that Florida Power overcharged Seminole for electricity and ordered a refund. Seminole petitioned for review, claiming that it was entitled to a larger refund. The DC Circuit denied the petition for review, holding that the Commission correctly concluded that the service agreement required Seminole to make any challenge to a bill within 24 months of receiving that bill, and thus limited Florida Power's refund liability. The court also held that, in the face of ambiguity, the Commission reasonably concluded that the tariff allowed transmission providers to use non-apportionment. View "Seminole Electric Cooperative v. FERC" on Justia Law

by
Charges that constitute compensation for the use of government property are not subject to Proposition 218’s voter approval requirements. To constitute compensation for a property interest, however, the amount of the charge must bear a reasonable relationship to the value of the property interest, and to the extent the charge exceeds any reasonable value of the interest, it is a tax and requires voter approval. Plaintiffs contended that a one percent charge that was separately stated on electricity bills issued by Southern California Edison (SCE) was not compensation for the privilege of using property owned by the City of Santa Barbara but was instead a tax imposed without voter approval, in violation of Proposition 218. The City argued that this separate charge was the fee paid by SCE to the City for the privilege of using City property in connection with the delivery of electricity. The Supreme Court held that the complaint and stipulated facts adequately alleged the basis for a claim that the surcharge bore no reasonable relationship to the value of the property interest and was therefore a tax requiring voter approval under Proposition 218. The court remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Jacks v. City of Santa Barbara" on Justia Law