Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Judicial Court
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The Supreme Court answered two of three questions of state law certified by the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and declined to answer the second question in this case brought about by the City of South Portland's amendment to its zoning ordinance by prohibiting the bulk loading of crude oil onto any marine vessel.Portland Pipe Line Corporation (PPLC) planned to pipe crude oil from its facility in Canada to the City of South Portland, where the oil would then be loaded onto tankers in the City's harbor. After the City enacted its ordinance at issue, called the "Clear Skies Ordinance," PPLC and American Waterways Operators (collectively, PPLC) filed a complaint seeking a declaration that, inter alia, the Ordinance was preempted by Me. Rev. Stat. 38, 556. The federal district court entered summary judgment against PPLC. On appeal, the First Circuit certified questions of state law to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court held (1) PPLC's license was not an "order," as that term is used in Me. Rev. Stat. 38, 556; and (2) independent of section 556, there was no basis for finding that Maine's Coastal Conveyance Act impliedly preempts the City's Clear Skies Ordinance. View "Portland Pipe Line Corp. v. City of South Portland" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the portion of the superior court's judgment dismissing the declaratory judgment count of Appellants' complaint seeking a declaration that a certain citizen initiative failed to meet the constitutional requirements for inclusion on the November 2020 ballot, holding that the initiative was unconstitutional and could not be submitted to the electors for popular vote.At issue was a citizen initiative that proposed a resolve that would reverse an order of the Maine Public Utilities Commission granting Central Maine Power Company's (CMP) request for a certificate of public convenience and necessity for a 145-mile transmission line. Avangrid Networks, Inc., the company that owned CMP as a subsidiary, filed a complaint leading to the present litigation, seeking a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief. The district court dismissed the complaint, concluding that the initiative's constitutionality was not subject to judicial review before the election. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment, holding that the initiative failed to meet the constitutional requirements for inclusion on the ballot because it exceeded the scope of the legislative powers conferred by article IV, part 3, section 18 of the Maine Constitution. View "Avangrid Networks, Inc. v. Secretary of State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the Business and Consumer Docket affirming a decision of the Secretary of State that validated a direct initiative petition regarding the New England Clean Energy Connect Transmission Project (NECEC), holding that the Secretary of State properly validated the petition.On appeal, Delbert Reed claimed that the Secretary of State erred by (1) validating the petitions notarized by three notaries based on the Secretary of State's misinterpretation and misapplication of Me. Rev. Stat. 21-A, 9030E and Me. Rev. Stat. 954-A, and (2) failing to conduct a more thorough fraud investigation of the initiative campaign's signature-gathering process. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Secretary of State did not err by declining, pursuant to sections 903-E and 954-A, to invalidate the petitions that were notarized by the notaries at issue; and (2) the Secretary of State reasonably determined that the broad assertions of fraud were insufficient grounds to launch an additional investigation of the entire campaign. View "Reed v. Secretary of State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the Maine Public Utilities Commission granting Central Maine Power Company's (CMP) petition for a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) for the construction and operation of the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) project, holding that the Commission followed the proper procedure and that there was sufficient evidence in the record to support the Commission's findings.In 2017, CMP filed a petition with the Commission for a CPCN for the NECEC project, a 145-mile transmission line. The Commission voted to grant CMP a CPCN for the construction and operation of the NECEC project. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commission did not commit legal error when it decided that CMP was not required to file the results of a third-party investigation into nontransmission alternatives; (2) the Commission did not err in its construction and application of Me. Rev. Stat. 35-A, 3132(6); and (3) the Commission did not abuse its discretion in approving a stipulation between the parties requiring the project to provide myriad benefits to ratepayers and the State as conditions to the recommended Commission approval of the stipulated findings and issuance of the CPCN. View "NextEra Energy Resources, LLC v. Maine Public Utilities Commission" on Justia Law

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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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Bangor Hydro-Electric (BHE) and Maine Public Service Company (MPS) were regulated utilities engaged in the transmission and distribution of electric it. The companies merged to become Emera Maine during the pendency of this proceeding. BHE and MPS filed a petition for reorganization, under which Emera Maine’s parent company would increase its ownership interest in Algonquin Power & Utilities Corporation (APUC), a publicly-traded company that is in the electricity generation business. The petition was subject to approval by the Maine Public Utilities Commission because of the relationship that would result between Emera Maine, as a transmission and distribution entity, and APUC, a generator. The Commission approved the petition. On appeal, the Supreme Judicial Court vacated the Commission’s order approving the petition, holding that the Commission misconstrued the governing statute in the Electric Industry Restructuring Act. On remand, the Commission once again approved the petition. On the second appeal, the Supreme Judicial Court vacated the Commission’s order, holding that the Commission acted outside of its authority when it imposed conditions that would regulate APUC beyond what the Restructuring Act allows. Remanded with instructions to deny the petition. View "Houlton Water Co. v. Public Utilities Commission" on Justia Law