Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Rhode Island Supreme Court
Green Development, LLC v. Town of Exeter
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of the Town of Exeter in this action seeking injunctive and declaratory relief challenging the Town's decision to amend its zoning ordinance, which prevented Plaintiff from developing three commercial solar-field projects in Exeter, holding that Plaintiff was not entitled to relief on its allegations of error.On appeal, Plaintiff challenged several aspects of the superior court's judgment denying Plaintiff's request to enjoin enforcement of an emergency moratorium ordinance preventing review of Plaintiff's solar-field projects and to declare that Plaintiff's solar-field projects were vested pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 45-24-44. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under this Court's understanding of the relevant law, the trial court properly entered judgment in favor of the Town. View "Green Development, LLC v. Town of Exeter" on Justia Law
Gunvor USA, LLC v. State, ex rel. Division of Taxation
The Supreme Court quashed the order of the district court granting the motion to dismiss filed by the State of Rhode Island, acting by and through the Division of Taxation (Division), in this appeal stemming from a series of transactions for the purchase and sale of gasoline, holding that the district court erred in granting the Division's motion to dismiss based on Plaintiff's failure to exhaust its administrative remedies.The tax at issue was levied on a transaction between Plaintiff and another party and was the subject of several transactions between various entities. Plaintiff reimbursed a third-party for the tax assessed on the sale of 300,000 barrels of gasoline and then initiated this action alleging constitutional violations and violations of the Motor Fuel Tax. The trial judge dismissed the case for Plaintiff's failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial judge erroneously dismissed the action based on Plaintiff's failure to exhaust its administrative remedies. View "Gunvor USA, LLC v. State, ex rel. Division of Taxation" on Justia Law
Apex Oil Co. v. State, ex rel. Division of Taxation
The Supreme Court quashed the order of the district court dismissing two actions challenging the State Division of Taxation's denial of Plaintiff's claim for a refund of $4,280,039 paid for Motor Fuel Tax assessed on the purchase and sale of 300,000 barrels of gasoline, holding that the the district court erred.Plaintiff purchased 300,000 barrels of gasoline from Defendant. The Division imposed a motor fuel taxes on the gasoline that was charged to Defendant, as the seller of the gas. Defendant sought reimbursement from Plaintiff, which sought a refund from the Division under R.I. Gen. Stat. 31-36-13. The Division denied Plaintiff's claim for a refund on the grounds that Plaintiff did not have a right to pursue a refund. Plaintiff then filed a complaint alleging constitutional violations and violations of the Motor Fuel Tax, among other claims. Plaintiff then appealed the Division's denial of its request for a refund. The hearing officer concluded that Plaintiff's claim was barred by both res judicata and administrative finality. Ultimately, both cases were dismissed. The Supreme Court quashed the decisions below, holding (1) Plaintiff had standing; (2) the trial judge erred in concluding that res judicata barred Plaintiff's appeal; and (3) the doctrine of administrative finality did not apply to bar Plaintiff's claims. View "Apex Oil Co. v. State, ex rel. Division of Taxation" on Justia Law
In re Petition of the Episcopal Diocese of R.I. for Declaratory Judgment
The Supreme Court dismissed the Episcopal Diocese or Rhode Island's challenge to an order of the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that permitted the Narragansett Electric Company to charge the diocese for electricity transmission costs associated with a proposed solar development project on diocese property in Glocester, holding that the matter was moot.On appeal, the diocese argued that the PUC's order was unlawful and unreasonable for several reasons, including the assertion that the PUC subjected the diocese to a biased proceeding in violation of state law. After the Supreme Court remanded the matter to the PUC for consideration of newly discovered evidence Narragansett determined that the diocese was not subject to the challenged interconnection costs. The Supreme Court declined to address the merits of the diocese's appeal, holding that the matter was moot. View "In re Petition of the Episcopal Diocese of R.I. for Declaratory Judgment" on Justia Law
In re Narragansett Electric Co.
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Energy Facility Siting Board (the board or EFSB) concerning the relocation of power lines across the Providence and Seekonk Rivers, holding that Petitioners had standing and that review of the Board's decisions was timely.Petitioners in this case were the City of Providence, Friends of India Point Park, The Hilton Garden Inn, and The R.I. Seafood Festival. Petitioners sought review of a January 17, 2018 order in which the Board stated that the "bridge alignment north" and the "underground alignment" were not feasible but approved the "bridge alignment south." Respondents - EFSB, the City of East Providence, and National Grid - sought review of the order. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) all Petitioners except for Hilton lacked standing in this matter; and (2) while the Board's order was deficient, the next preferred alignment was the bridge alignment south, and therefore, the order of the Board is upheld. View "In re Narragansett Electric Co." on Justia Law
In re Review of Proposed Town of New Shoreham Project
The state public utilities commission approved a power-purchase agreement (PPA) between National Grid and Deepwater Wind, the respondents. Under the PPA, Deepwater Wind agreed to construct an offshore wind farm in state waters and then sell the generated electricity to National Grid, a statewide power distributor. National Grid, in turn, pledged to purchase the generated electricity and apportion the cost of building the wind farm to in-state ratepayers over the course of the twenty-year contract. Dissatisfied with National Grid's cost-distribution plan, petitioners Toray Plastics and Polytop challenged the commission's assessment that the PPA met all statutory preconditions for approval. The Supreme Court affirmed the commission's decision, concluding that the commission accurately interpreted and applied the law by making findings that were lawful and reasonable, fairly and substantially supported by legal evidence, and sufficiently specific for the Court to ascertain that the evidence upon which the commission based its findings reasonably supported the result.
Narragansett Electric Co. v. Minardi, et al.
Rather than undertaking appeals from the assessment of taxes on its gas assets in accordance with R.I. Gen. Laws 44-5-26(a), plaintiff electric company sought declaratory and injunctive relief directly from the superior court. Plaintiff sued the taxing authorities of most of Rhode Island's municipalities, requesting a declaration that because the municipalities failed to tax plaintiff's gas assets as tangible personal property, they assessed illegal taxes. The trial justice dismissed all but one count of plaintiff's complaint, holding that plaintiff did not file a timely appeal or invoke the court's equitable jurisdiction. The Supreme Court affirmed. Because plaintiff elected to bypass the applicable review procedures and proceed directly to the superior court, plaintiff failed to establish that it had been assessed an illegal tax. Thus, plaintiff could not avail itself of the direct appeal to the superior court.