Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Hawaii
City & County of Honolulu v. Sunoco LP
The Supreme Court affirmed the orders of the circuit court denying Defendants' motions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim in this action brought by the City and County of Honolulu and the Honolulu Board of Water Supply (collectively, Plaintiffs) against a number of oil and gas producers (collectively, Defendants), holding that there was no error.Plaintiffs sued Defendants alleging public nuisance, private nuisance, strict liability failure to warn, negligent failure to warn, and trespass. Specifically, Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants engaged in a deceptive promotion campaign and misled the public about the dangers and environmental impact of using their fossil fuel products. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, arguing, among other things, that Plaintiffs' claims were preempted by the Clean Air Act (CAA). The Supreme Court denied the motions, holding (1) Defendants were subject to specific jurisdiction in Hawai'i; (2) the CAA displaced federal common law governing interstate pollution damages suit, and following displacement, federal common law did and does not preempt state law; and (3) the CAA did not preempt Plaintiffs' claims. View "City & County of Honolulu v. Sunoco LP" on Justia Law
In re Haw. Electric Light Co., Inc.
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) rejecting the power purchase agreement between Hu Honua and the Hawai'i Electric light Company, Inc., holding that there was no error in the PUC's decision to reject the power purchase agreement between the parties.At issue was the denial of Hua Honua's request for regulatory approval to supply energy to Hawai'i Island using a biomass power plant. In declining to approve the project on remand, the PUC found that the project would produce massive greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and significantly increase costs for rate-payers. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the PUC understood its public interest-minded mission and properly followed this Court's remand instructions to consider the reasonableness of the proposed project's costs in light of its GHG emissions and the impact on Intervenors' right to a clean and healthful environment. View "In re Haw. Electric Light Co., Inc." on Justia Law
In re Maui Electric Company, Ltd.
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approving a power purchase agreement (PPA) between Maui Electric Company, Limited (MECO) and Paeahu Solar LLC (Paeahu), holding that the PUC satisfied its public trust duties in this case.Under the PPA, MECO would purchase renewable energy from Paeahu's solar-plus-battery plant located within the Ulupalakua Ranch on Maui. Pono Power Coalition, a Maui community group, challenging the winning bidders' post-selection use of the same counsel to negotiate non-price PPA terms and asserting that the PUC failed to fulfill its public trust duties. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) this Court declines to inject antitrust standards into PPA approval proceedings; (2) the PUC appropriately evaluated the allegations of anticompetitive conduct; (3) the statutes governing the PUC's PPA review reflect the core public trust principles; and (4) the PUC properly approved the PPA. View "In re Maui Electric Company, Ltd." on Justia Law
In re Application of Hawaiian Electric Co.
The Supreme Court held that the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) did not abuse its discretion in deciding not to reopen a December 2014 order (Order No. 32600) upon allegations raised in 2019 that changed circumstances warranted relief from the order.The order at issue approved a purchase power agreement (PPA) in which Hawaiian Electric Company agreed to purchase wind energy generated by Na Pua Makani on a wind farm to be constructed on the island of O'ahu. Life of the Land (LOL) sought to reopen the order with reference to Hawai'i Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 60(b). The PUC denied LOL's motion for relief, concluding that it was without jurisdiction to consider the motion because LOL had not timely appealed the order under Haw. Rev. Stat. 269-15.5 and, alternatively, that the motion for relief was an untimely motion for rehearing or reconsideration. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the PUC did not abuse its discretion in declining to turn to HRCP Rule 60(b) to reopen Order No. 32600. View "In re Application of Hawaiian Electric Co." on Justia Law
In re Hawai’i Electric Light Co.
The Supreme Court vacated two orders of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) denying a competitive bidding waiver to Hawai'i Electric Light Company, Inc. (HELCO) and denying Hu Honua's request for reconsideration of the first order, holding that both orders were the result of a misreading of the holding in Matter of Hawai'i Electric Light Co., 445 P.3d 673 (Haw. 2019) (HELCO I).In 2017, the PUC granted HELCO a waiver from competitive bidding for a proposed power purchase agreement HELCO wanted to enter into with Hu Honua (the amended PPA). The 2017 waiver was issued alongside the PUC's approval of the amended PPA. The Supreme Court vacated the decision and remanded for further proceedings. On remand, the PUC issued Order No. 37205 denying HELCO's request for a waiver under the belief that HELCO I nullified the 2017 waiver. In order No. 37306, the PUC denied Hu Honua's request for reconsideration. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that HELCO I did not vacate the 2017 waiver and, by extension, did not require the PUC to revisit the threshold waiver issue. View "In re Hawai'i Electric Light Co." on Justia Law
In re Tax Appeal of Kaheawa Wind Power, LLC v. County of Maui
In this taxation dispute between the County of Maui and Appellees, which leased land on the island of Maui to operate their wind farms, the Supreme Court upheld the Tax Appeals Court's (TAC) final judgment in favor of Appellees, holding that the TAC properly held that the County exceeded its constitutional authority by amending Maui County Code 3.48.005 to expand its definition of "real property" to include "personal property."The County included the value of Appellees' wind turbine in their real property tax assessments and redefined the term "real property" within section 3.48.005 of the MCC to include wind turbines for that purpose. The TAC concluded that the County exceeded its authority under Haw. Const. art. VIII, 3 because the delegates to the 1978 Constitutional Convention did not intend to grant counties the power to redefine "real property." The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the County exceeded its constitutional power when it amended MCC 6.48.005 to redefine "real property." View "In re Tax Appeal of Kaheawa Wind Power, LLC v. County of Maui" on Justia Law
In re Application of Hawai’i Electric Light Co.
The Supreme Court vacated the decision and order of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approving an amended power purchase agreement (PPA) between Hawai'i Electric Light Company, Inc. (HELCO) and Hu Honua Bioenergy, LLC, pursuant to which Hu Honua would construct and operate a biomass-field energy production facility and HELCO would purchase energy from the facility, holding that the PUC failed explicitly to consider greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in determining whether to approve the amended PPA and denied Life of the Land due process during the underlying proceedings.LOL, an environmental nonprofit organization, sought to intervene as a party in the PUC's proceeding in order to address the environmental impacts of the proposed facility. The PUC granted LOL limited participation in the proceeding and then approved the amended PPA. The Supreme Court vacated the PUC's order, holding (1) this Court has jurisdiction to consider LOL's appeal; (2) the PUC erred by failing explicitly to consider the reduction of GHG emissions in approving the amended PPA, as required by statute; and (3) the PUC denied LOL due process to protect its interest in a clean and healthful environment by restricting its participation in the proceeding. View "In re Application of Hawai'i Electric Light Co." on Justia Law