Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Ohio
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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) determining that Direct Energy Business, LLC had established that Duke Energy Ohio, Inc.'s failure to provide accurate readings of the generation usage of one of Direct's customers constituted inadequate service, holding that Duke Energy was not acting as a public utility when serving as Direct's meter-data-management agent.Direct purchased electric generation services from the operator of a wholesale power market and resold them to end-use customers through Duke Energy's distribution system. Duke Energy acted as Direct's meter-data-management agent, providing electric usage data about Direct's customers to the wholesale market operator, which then used the data to invoice Direct for its purchases. When Duke Energy failed to calculate usage data for one of Direct's large customers, Direct filed a complaint against Duke Energy with the PUCO. The PUCO ruled in favor of Direct. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded to the PUCO with instructions for it to dismiss Direct's complaint, holding (1) the PUCO lacked jurisdiction over this matter because PUCO's jurisdiction is confined to the supervision of "public utilities"; and (2) Duke Energy did not act as a public utility under the facts of this case. View "In re Complaint of Direct Energy Business, LLC v. Duke Energy Ohio, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Board of Tax Appeals (BTA) affirming a tax assessment against Rockies Express Pipeline, LLC (Rockies), holding that Rockies' gross receipts for tax year 2015 from the transportation of natural gas within the state of Ohio were not excluded from taxation under Ohio Rev. Code 5727.33(B)(1) as "receipts derived wholly from interstate business" and that such taxation does not violate the Commerce Clause.Rockies is an interstate pipeline that transports natural gas for others. For tax year 2015, the Ohio Tax Commissioner assessed Rockies on transactions in which natural gas entered and exited Rockies' pipeline within Ohio. Rockies petitioned the tax commissioner for reassessment, arguing that its receipts derived wholly from interstate business and were thus eligible for exclusion under section 5727.33(B)(1). The tax commissioner upheld the assessment. The BTA affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Rockies did not meet its burden of showing that its receipts fall under the exclusion in section 5727.33(B)(1) as "receipts derived wholly from interstate business"; and (2) imposing the tax under these circumstances does not violate the Commerce Clause because Rockies has substantial nexus with Ohio based on its physical presence within the State. View "Rockies Express Pipeline, LLC v. McClain" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) approving and modifying a previously approved electric-security plan of Ohio Power Company, holding that the Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) did not satisfy its burden to demonstrate reversible error on the record.The OCC challenged three riders authorized by the PUCO's order, including the power purchase agreement rider, the smart city rider, and the renewable generation rider. The Supreme Court affirmed the PUCO's order, holding (1) this Court lacked jurisdiction to review the OCC's challenge to the power purchase agreement rider because the OCC did not include the challenge in an application for rehearing; (2) the OCC failed to show that the PUCO lacked statutory authority to approve the smart city rider; and (3) the OCC did not establish that approving the renewable general rider on a placeholder basis will harm or prejudice ratepayers. View "In re Application of Ohio Power Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the trial court's judgment dismissing Plaintiffs' claims for quiet title and declaratory judgment based on their contention that an oil and gas lease had terminated by its terms due to lack of production, holding that the twenty-one-year limitations period in Ohio Rev. Code. 2305.04 applied.In their complaint Plaintiffs alleged that the well at issue did not produce any oil or gas from its inception until 1999 and that the well had been inoperative for enough time to terminate the lease. Defendants asserted a statute of limitations defense to Plaintiffs' claims. The trial court held that Plaintiffs had not presented any evidence to satisfy their burden of proving that the well was no longer profitable and that Plaintiffs' claims were subject to a fifteen-year statute of limitations. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing that the correct limitations period was the twenty-one-year period under Ohio Rev. Code 2305.04. The court of appeals rejected the argument and affirmed the trial court's summary judgment for Defendants. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the twenty-one-year statute of limitations period applied and that evidence of lack of production prior to 1999 was not irrelevant. View "Browne v. Artex Oil Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the orders of the Ohio Power Siting Board approving the application of 6011 Greenwich Windpark, LLC to add three new wind-turbine models to the list of turbines suitable for Greenwich Windpark's proposed wind farm in Huron County, holding that the Board's approval of Greenwich Windpark's application did not require an amendment of its certificate.On appeal, Appellant argued that, in approving the proposed changes, the Board acted unlawfully and unreasonably by refusing to subject Greenwich Windpark's application to the enhanced minimum turbine-setback requirements applicable to any certificate "amendment" under the current versions of Ohio Rev. Code 4906.20 and 4906.201. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Board adopted a reasonable and practical approach for determining when an amendment is necessary for purposes of the statutes and that, under the circumstances, the Board's decision was not unlawful or unreasonable. View "In re Application of 6011 Greenwich Windpark, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) that modified and approved an electric-security plan (ESP) for the FirstEnergy Companies, holding that the Commission erred in modifying the ESP to add a distribution modernization rider (DMR) that was not part of the original application.The Commission concluded that the DMR, which allowed the FirstEnergy Companies to collect between $168 to $204 million in extra revenue per year, was valid under Ohio Rev. Code 4928.143(B)(2)(h) because the revenue it generated would purportedly serve as an incentive for the companies to modernize their distribution systems. The Supreme Court reversed the Commission's order as it related to the DMR and remanded with instructions to remove the DMR for the companies' ESP, holding that the DMR did not qualify as a proper incentive under section 4928.143(B)(2)(h) and that the conditions placed on the recovery of DMR revenue were not sufficient to protect ratepayers. View "In re Application of Ohio Edison Co." on Justia Law

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At issue was what type of reference within a chain of title is sufficient to preserve an earlier-created interest under Ohio’s Marketable Title Act, which generally allows a landowner who has an unbroken chain of title to land for a forty-year period to transfer title free of interests that existed prior to the beginning of the chain of title unless sufficient reference is made to interests within that chain of title.Landowners sought to extinguish an oil-and-gas royalty interest created in 1915. Landowners argued that a reference in a deed in their chain of title to the royalty interest, as well as the original holder of the interest, was not sufficient to preserve the interest because it did not include either the volume and page number of the record in which the interest was recorded or the date on which the interest was recorded. The court of appeals concluded that Landowners’ title remained subject to the royalty interest. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a reference that includes the type of interest created and to whom the interest was granted is sufficiently specific to preserve the interest in the record title. View "Blackstone v. Moore" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal brought by the Office of Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC) and the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association Energy Group (OMAEG) challenging the Public Utility Commission’s decision to approve the third electric-security plan (ESP) of Ohio Power Company, holding that OCC and OMAEG failed to demonstrate prejudice or harm caused by the ESP order.On appeal, OCC and OMAEG argued that the Commission’s approval of the Power Purchase Agreement Ride as a component of the ESP was reversible error. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding (1) OCC failed to demonstrate that ratepayers suffered actual harm or prejudice from the ESP order; and (2) this Court declines to address the claims that ratepayers were at risk of imminent or future harm rising from the ESP order. View "In re Application of Ohio Power Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Public Utilities Commission that approved a charge referred to as the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) Rider as a component of Ohio Power Company’s third electric-security plan (ESP), holding that the order was not unlawful or unreasonable.Specifically, the Court held (1) the PPA Rider did not recover unlawful transition revenue; (2) the challenges to the Commission’s approval of the PPA Rider under the ESP statute, Ohio Rev. Code 4928.143, were without merit; (3) the challenges to the Commission’s approval of the joint stipulation to resolve the issues in the PPA Rider case failed; and (4) the Commission complied with Ohio Rev. Code 4903.09 when it approved the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation-only PPA Rider. View "In re Application of Ohio Power Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals granting summary judgment to the chief of the oil-and-gas resources-management division of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), the director of ODNR, the state, and the governor of Ohio (collectively, Appellees) on the grounds that Food and Water Watch (FWW) and FreshWater Accountability Project (FWAP) lacked standing to bring this action for a writ of mandamus to compel the ODNR to promulgate rules relating to the storage, recycling, treatment, processing, and disposal of waste substances associated with oil and gas drilling. The court held (1) because FWAP did not demonstrate that its individual members would have standing in their own right, its claim for associational standing failed; (2) this court declines to extend State ex rel. Ohio Academy of Trial Lawyers v. Sheward, 715 N.E.2d 1062 (Ohio 1999); and (3) FWAP waived other arguments regarding standing and did not otherwise demonstrate that it had standing to proceed in this mandamus action. View "State ex rel. Food & Water Watch v. State" on Justia Law