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

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Public Utilities Commission that authorized Duke Energy Ohio, Inc. to recover costs associated with the environmental remediation of two manufactured-gas-plant (MGP) sites near downtown Cincinnati. The court held that the Commission did not exceed its authority when it allowed Duke to recover the costs incurred to remediate the MGP sites. The court dismissed Appellants’ remaining arguments as moot. Because Appellants did not carry their burden of demonstrating that the Commission’s order was unjust, unreasonable or unlawful, the Supreme Court affirmed the Commission's order. View "In re Application of Duke Energy Ohio, Inc." on Justia Law

by
LPSC petitioned for review of FERC's rejection of LPSC's request to reform certain depreciation rates. The DC Circuit denied the petition for review and rejected LPSC's claim that FERC failed to confront its asserted evidence of undue discrimination where FERC fulfilled such obligations; FERC precedent did not require the use of FERC's own depreciation standards; and there has been no unlawful subdelegation because FERC has exercised, and intends to continue to exercise, its authority. View "Louisiana Public Service Commission v. FERC" on Justia Law

by
The trial court held that the rate charged by Metropolitan Water District of Southern California for transporting water (“wheeling”) violated several laws and awarded the San Diego County Water Authority damages for breach of a water exchange agreement between the two agencies. The court held that the Authority lacked standing to challenge a provision in water conservation program contracts between the parties that penalizes the Authority for participating in litigation or supporting legislation to challenge or modify Metropolitan’s existing rate structure. The court of appeal remanded. The trial court erroneously held that although Metropolitan is required to pay its pro rata share of the costs of maintaining the California Aqueduct, these costs may not be considered in calculating Metropolitan’s wheeling charges, essentially because Metropolitan does not own the aqueduct. The inclusion of Metropolitan’s system-wide transportation costs, including transportation charges paid to the State Water Project, in the calculation of its wheeling rate does not violate the wheeling statutes, common law, or the parties’ agreement. The allocation of “water stewardship” charges to the wheeling rate was proper. The Authority has standing to challenge the unconstitutional anti-litigation condition. View "San Diego County Water Authority v. Metropolitan Water District of Southern California" on Justia Law

by
MISO, a nonprofit association of utilities, manages electrical transmission facilities for its members. Beginning in 2006, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved changes to MISO’s Tariff that enabled it to authorize network expansion projects and divide the costs among the member utilities. Duke and American own Ohio and Kentucky utilities. In July 2009, American gave notice that it planned to withdraw from MISO. Duke followed suit in May 2010. Under the Tariff, a utility cannot withdraw from MISO any earlier than the last day of the year following the year it gives notice. Two months after Duke announced its intention to withdraw, MISO proposed a new category of more expensive expansion projects. FERC approved this revision to the Tariff. In August 2010, MISO authorized the first Multi-Value Project. In December 2011, weeks before Duke’s scheduled departure, MISO approved 16 projects, to cost billions of dollars. MISO proposed amending the Tariff, so that ex-members could be charged for the costs of Multi-Value Projects approved before their departure. FERC approved that revision prospectively, holding that the revision imposed new obligations on withdrawing members and could not apply to Duke and American to charge them for the Multi-Value Projects. Other MISO Transmission Owners appealed, claiming that FERC departed from the reasoning of its prior orders. The Sixth Circuit denied a petition for review, stating that there is no presumption that costs for the Multi-Value Projects should be allocated up front. View "MISO Transmission Owners v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

by
Petitioners challenged the Commissions' approval of revisions to the rules governing the buying and selling of "capacity" for markets operated by PJM. The DC Circuit held that the Commission balanced the benefits of the revised rules against the increased costs and reached a reasoned judgment. Therefore, the Commission's decision was not arbitrary nor capricious. The court deferred to the Commission's interpretation of the Federal Power Act, 16 U.S.C. 824e, because its interpretation of the Act's requirements was reasonable; deferred to the Commission's balancing of competing concerns in setting a penalty rate; and rejected challenges to the default offer cap, the year-round capacity commitment, orders approving PJM's demand resource rules, and imposition of Capacity Performance penalties on resources that fail to perform due to unit-specific constraints. Accordingly, the court denied the petitions for review. View "Advanced Energy Management Alliance v. FERC" on Justia Law

by
In this appeal, the issue presented for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s review centered on the language of the utility service facilities exception ("Utility Exception") to governmental immunity contained in the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act ("Tort Claims Act"). The Commonwealth Court concluded that where a dangerous condition of the facilities of a utility system is created by the negligent action or inaction of a local agency or its employees, the Utility Exception did not apply. Because the Commonwealth Court misconstrued both the Utility Exception and the gravamen of the lawsuit in question, the Supreme Court reversed. View "Metropolitan Edison v. City of Reading" on Justia Law