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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the Maine Public Utilities Commission approving a stipulation regarding Efficiency Maine Trust’s Third Triennial Plan for energy efficiency, holding that the Commission did not err in interpreting and applying the relevant statutes. The Conservation Law Foundation appealed from the Commission’s order approving the stipulation, arguing that the order and the terms of the stipulation disregarded statutory mandates set forth in the Efficiency Maine Trust Act. See Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 35-A, 10101-10123. The Supreme Judicial Court held that the Commission’s order and the stipulation did not violate statutory mandates for electric energy efficiency or the statutory mandate to assess each natural gas utility an amount to capture all maximum achievable cost-effective energy efficiency savings. View "Conservation Law Foundation v. Public Utilities Commission" on Justia Law

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Unable to win the consent of all necessary landowners, a public utility company contended it had a statutory right to condemn a right-of-way on two parcels of land in New Mexico. Because federal law did not permit condemnation of tribal land, the Navajo Nation’s ownership of undivided fractional interests in the parcels presented a problem for the company. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the condemnation action against the two land parcels in which the Navajo Nation held an interest. View "Public Service Company of NM v. Barboan" on Justia Law

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Section 309 of the Federal Power Act (FPA), 16 U.S.C. 825h, vests the Commission with broad remedial authority, including the authority to grant recoupment when it is justified; Section 201(f) does not limit the authority of the Commission to grant relief under Section 309 with respect to matters that are beyond the strictures of Sections 201(f) and 205; and an order of recoupment, as distinguished from an order to refund under Section 205, is beyond the strictures of Sections 201(f) and 205. In this case, Chehalis sought relief from the Commission by filing a Motion for an Order Requiring Recoupment of Payments, but the Commission concluded that it could not order recoupment because the Commission's refund authority does not extend to exempt public utilities such as the Intervenor Bonneville. The DC Circuit held that the Commission erred when it held that it lacked the authority to grant the Order Requiring Recoupment where the Commission clearly had jurisdiction over the subject of this dispute and the Commission retained the authority to order Bonneville to return the funds when the agency acknowledged that its initial order was mistaken. The court granted in part and denied in part Chehalis's petitions for review, and remanded for further proceedings. View "TNA Merchant Projects v. FERC" on Justia Law

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In consolidated cases, two municipalities sought to provide electric service through municipal electric utilities. Central to both cases was the applicability Michigan Administrative Code Rule 411 (sometimes referred to as a utility’s right to first entitlement). Rule 460.3411 (Rule 411) was inapplicable when a municipal utility is involved and has not consented to the jurisdiction of the Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC). Additionally, under the circumstances of each case, the Michigan Supreme Court found there was not a customer already receiving service from another utility; accordingly, MCL 124.3 did not prevent either plaintiff from providing electric service. View "City of Holland v. Consumers Energy Co." on Justia Law

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Appellants sued the town of Alpine, alleging claims stemming from Alpine’s financing and construction of a new sewage treatment facility. Appellants sought a declaration that Alpine’s loans for the new sewage treatment facility exceeded the town’s constitutional and statutory indebtedness limits. Appellant’s also asserted a claim for injunctive relief to stop Alpine from enforcing assessments and exactions for the new sewerage system on Appellants. A few years later, while the original case was proceeding, Appellants filed another action against Alpine and Nelson Engineering, claiming that Alpine and Nelson made false reports to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality that Appellants had violated the agency’s rules and regulations when they upgraded their septic systems. The district court granted Alpine’s motion to dismiss all claims against the town and granted Nelson’s motion for summary judgment on all claims against the engineering firm. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) Appellants sufficiently pled standing to pursue their declaratory judgment claim against Alpine; (2) the allegations supporting Appellants’ claim for injunctive relief against Alpine were legally sufficient; and (3) the district court’s respective orders on all the remaining claims in the two cases against Alpine and Nelson were not in error. View "Tavern, LLC v. Town of Alpine" on Justia Law

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8x8 provides telephone services via Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Customers use a digital terminal adapter, containing 8x8’s proprietary firmware and software. Customers’ calls are switched to traditional lines and circuits when necessary; 8x8 did not pay Federal Communications Excise Tax (FCET) to the traditional carriers, based on an “exemption certificate,” (I.R.C. 4253). Consistent with its subscription plan, 8x8 collected FCET from its customers and remitted FCET to the IRS. In 2005, courts held that section 4251 did not permit the IRS to tax telephone services that billed at a fixed per-minute, non-distance-sensitive rate. The IRS ceased collecting FCET on “amounts paid for time-only service,” stated that VoIP services were non-taxable, and established a process seeking a refund of FCET that had been exacted on nontaxable services, stating stated that a “collector” can request a refund if the collector either “establishes that it repaid the amount of the tax to the person from whom the tax was collected”; or “obtains the written consent of such person to the allowance of such credit or refund.” The IRS denied 8x8’s refund claim. The Claims Court concluded that 8x8 lacked standing and granted the government summary judgment. The Federal Circuit affirmed; 8x8 did not bear the economic burden of FCET, but sought to recover costs borne by its customers, contrary to the Code. The court rejected an argument that FCET was “treated as paid” during the transfer of services to traditional carriers. View "8x8, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Section 210 of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA), 16 U.S.C. 824a-3, seeks to reduce reliance on fossil fuels by increasing the number of energy-efficient cogeneration and small power-production facilities. Oregon implements its PURPA responsibilities largely through its Public Utility Commission (OPUC), which has directed utilities subject to its jurisdiction to draft off-the-shelf, standard-form power-purchase agreements that OPUC then reviews for compliance with PURPA. OPUC has approved two standard-form power-purchase agreements submitted by petitioner Portland General Electric. Petitioner PáTu Wind Farm, a six-turbine, nine-megawatt generator in rural Oregon, is classified under PURPA as a small power producer. This appeal stems from the parties' dispute over the nature of Portland General's purchase obligation. The Commission ruled that under PURPA, Portland General must purchase all of PáTu’s power, though it rejected PáTu’s insistence that Portland General do so by utilizing a technology known as dynamic scheduling. The court concluded that PáTu’s petition dealing exclusively with Portland's refusal to utilize dynamic scheduling is without merit. Accordingly, the court denied PáTu’s petition. The court dismissed Portland's petition challenging the Commission's ruling that it must purchase all of PáTu’s power for lack of jurisdiction because FERC's orders were advisory. View "Portland General Electric Comp v. FERC" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged the Commissions' determinations following compliance filings by the regional transmission organization for New England's electric grid. The court concluded that the Transmission Owners have standing to bring their challenges, but concluded that the Commission's orders were not inconsistent with its past decisions; the Commission did not apply the wrong legal standard for measuring whether the Mobile-Sierra presumption had been overcome; and the Commission's determination was in accord with the evidence before it. In regard to State Petitioner's challenges, the court concluded that, in light of the clarifications made by the Commission, there is no inconsistency with Order No. 1000. The court also concluded that the Commission did not exceed its bounds of authority under the Federal Power Act (FPA), 16 U.S.C. 824(a). Accordingly, the court denied the petitions for review. View "Emera Maine v. FERC" on Justia Law

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Transmissions Owners provide transmission services for customers in New England. Consumers, Massachusetts and various consumer-side stakeholders, filed suit under section 206 of the Federal Power Act (FPA), 16 U.S.C. 824e(a), alleging that Transmission Owners' base return on equity (ROE) had become unjust and unreasonable. At issue are FERC's orders in the section 206 proceeding. Both Transmission Owners and Customers filed petitions for review challenging whether FERC satisfied the statutory requirements under section 206 in setting a new ROE. The court explained that, to satisfy its dual burden under section 206, FERC was required to do more than show that its single ROE analysis generated a new just and reasonable ROE and conclusively declare that, consequently, the existing ROE was per se unjust and unreasonable. Therefore, the court concluded that, because FERC's single ROE analysis failed to include an actual finding as to the lawfulness of Transmission Owners' existing base ROE, FERC acted arbitrarily and outside of its statutory authority in setting a new base ROE for Transmission Owners. The court also concluded that FERC failed to provide any reasoned basis for selecting 10.57 percent as the new base ROE. Accordingly, the court granted the petitions for review, vacated FERC's orders, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Maine v. FERC" on Justia Law

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Transco, which operates the 10,000-mile-long Transcontinental Pipeline from South Texas to New York City, sought a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the Leidy Southeast Expansion Project, including construction of four new pipeline “loops” and the upgrade of turbines at four compressor stations. The Skillman Loop and the Pleasant Run Loop, totaling 13.23 miles, would be located in New Jersey; the Franklin Loop and Dorrance Loop, totaling 16.74 miles, would be located in Pennsylvania. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) completed the requisite Environmental Assessment and issued the certificate in December 2014, conditioned on Transco’s receipt of “all applicable authorizations under federal law” enumerated in the Environmental Assessment, including from New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Pursuant to the Clean Water Act, the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Departments of Environmental Protection (PADEP, NJDEP) reviewed Transco’s proposal for potential water quality impacts and issued. In consolidated appeals, the Third Circuit upheld the approvals. NJDEP and PADEP did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in issuing the permits. View "New Jersey Conservation Foundation v. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection" on Justia Law