Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Utilities Law
Environmental Law & Policy Center v. Iowa Utilities Bd.
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court denying Appellant's petition for judicial review of an order of the Iowa Utilities Board approving a regulated public utility's emissions plan and budget, holding that the Board erred in failing to consider certain intervenors' evidence in determining whether the "Emissions Plan and Budget" (EPB) met the statutory requirements.The utility submitted an EPB - its initial plan and budget and subsequent updates - requesting approval for operations and maintenance expenditures associated with emissions controls previously approved at four coal-fueled power plants. The Board granted several motions to intervene in the contested case proceeding, including three environmental parties. Prior to the contested case hearing, the Board approved the utility's EPB. The environmental parties petitioned for judicial review, and the district court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Board erred in rejecting the evidence brought by the intervening parties that the retirement of coal-fueled electric power generated facilities was more cost effective than the utility's plan and budget as outside the scope of Iowa Code 476.6 and thus not relevant. View "Environmental Law & Policy Center v. Iowa Utilities Bd." 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 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
Ind. Office of Utility Consumer Counselor v. Southern Indiana Gas & Electric Co.
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the decision of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission approving Southern Indiana Gas and Electric Company's (Vectren) petition for approval of its new instantaneous netting method determining the amount of credit its customers receive for their excess distributed generation of electricity, holding that there was no error.Acting within its expertise and authority, the Commission approved Vectren's petition seeking approval of a tariff (Rider EDG) rate for the procurement of excess distributed generation. The Commission approved the Rider EDG, finding that the instantaneous netting method was consistent with Ind. Code 8-1-40-5. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Commission properly held that Vectren's instantaneous netting method was not contrary to law and satisfied the requirements in Ind. Code Ann. 8-1-40-5. View "Ind. Office of Utility Consumer Counselor v. Southern Indiana Gas & Electric Co." on Justia Law
Nodak Electric Coop. v. N.D. Public Svc. Commission, et al.
Otter Tail Power Company provided electric service to the City of Drayton, North Dakota under a franchise agreement. In August 2019, Drayton annexed to the city property known as McFarland’s Addition. In November 2019, an entity purchased a portion of McFarland’s Addition with the intention of building a truck stop. In April 2020, Drayton passed a resolution requiring Otter Tail to provide electric service to McFarland’s Addition. Nodak Electric Coop provided service to rural customers outside of Drayton, and did not provide services to customers in McFarland’s Addition. Nodak did not have a franchise from Drayton to provide electric service in the city. Nodak filed suit against Otter Tail, requesting the Public Service Commission to prohibit Otter Tail from extending electric service to McFarland’s Addition. Nodak alleged Otter Tail’s service would interfere with Nodak’s existing service and be an unreasonable duplication of services. In response, Otter Tail claimed the PSC lacked jurisdiction over Drayton’s decision on which provider could extend service within the city. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined the PSC lacked jurisdiction to rule on Nodak’s complaint, and reversed and vacated the PSC’s order: Otter Tail’s motion to dismiss should have been granted. View "Nodak Electric Coop. v. N.D. Public Svc. Commission, et al." on Justia Law
Equitrans, L.P. v. Public Service Comm’n of W. Va.
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Public Service Commission of West Virginia (PSC) ordering Equitrans, LC, a natural gas interstate pipeline company, to permit Hope Gas to connect a natural gas field tap on property owned by Ronald and Ashton Hall to Equitrans' "gathering line," holding that the PSC properly exercised jurisdiction in this matter.Seeking to divest itself of its gathering facilities Equitrans applied to the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) to abandon and sell its gathering facilities. FERC approved the application. When Equitrans denied Hope Gas's request to reestablish a service connection to the Halls' residence the Halls filed their complaint with the PSC. The PSC found that it had jurisdiction over the gathering facilities. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the PSC properly exercised jurisdiction over the gathering facility at issue. View "Equitrans, L.P. v. Public Service Comm'n of W. Va." on Justia Law
George E. Warren LLC v. Colonial Pipeline Co
Warren tenders gasoline products to Colonial (a common carrier) for shipment on Colonial’s pipeline from Texas to New Jersey, where Warren has a gasoline-blending operation. The rates and conditions for the transportation services are specified in tariffs approved by the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC). The tariff recognizes that the gasoline batches Colonial transports for Warren are fungible and allows Colonial to comingle gasoline from many shippers during transport. Colonial must deliver gasoline of the same volume and grade as the gasoline that was entrusted to it, with the same characteristics that influence the gasoline’s combustion performance (octane rating and distillation value), and its environmental impact, such as volatility. The tariff does not state whether “on specification” gasoline includes any “blend margin.” In 2016, FERC determined that the regulation of in-pipeline blending was outside its jurisdiction. Colonial continued giving Warren gasoline that complies with the relevant tariff but Warren claims that Colonial’s in-line blending of the gasoline with butane diminishes Warren’s ability to blend cheaper blendstocks into the gasoline. Warren regularly blends cheaper gasoline with more expensive gasoline to increase the amount of on-specification gasoline that it can sell,Warren sued for loss of profits (Carmack Amendment 49 U.S.C. 1590), conversion, unjust enrichment, and tortious interference. The Third Circuit affirmed the summary judgment rejection of the claims. Warren’s request seeks an enlargement of its rights under the FERC-approved tariff and violates the filed-rate doctrine’s nondiscrimination principle. View "George E. Warren LLC v. Colonial Pipeline Co" on Justia Law
Duke Energy Florida, LLC v. Clark
The Supreme Court reversed the order of the Florida Public Service Commission denying Duke Energy Florida, LLC's (DEF) request to recover approximately $16 from its customers for costs DEF incurred to meet its customers' demand for electricity, holding that the cost recovery should have been allowed.The costs at issue were incurred when a 420-megawatt (MW) steam-powered generating unit went offline at DEF's Bartow plant and was placed back in service at a derated capacity of 380 MW. After a hearing, an administrative law judge entered a recommended order denying cost recovery. The commission adopted the ALJ's recommendation in the final order on appeal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the factual findings forming the basis for the ALJ's ultimate causation determination were not supported by competent, substantial evidence. View "Duke Energy Florida, LLC v. Clark" on Justia Law
State ex rel. Utilities Commission v. Virginia Electric & Power Co.
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the North Carolina Utilities Commission addressing Dominion Energy North Carolina's application for a general increase in its North Carolina retail rates, holding that Dominion's challenges to the Commission's order were unavailing.In the order at issue, the Commission authorized Dominion to calculate its North Carolina retail rates by, inter alia, amortizing certain costs. Dominion appealed, arguing that the Commission acted capriciously and arbitrarily in failing to follow applicable precedent. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission's order was supported by competent, substantial evidence and that the Commission adequately explained the basis for the portions of its decision that Dominion challenged on appeal. View "State ex rel. Utilities Commission v. Virginia Electric & Power Co." on Justia Law
LSP Transmission Holdings II, LLC v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
LSP, an independent electric transmission developer, bids on proposals to build transmission projects throughout the U.S. LSP sought judicial review of a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) decision under 16 U.S.C. 824e concerning ISO New England’s compliance with Commission Order 1000, which required “the removal from Commission-jurisdictional tariffs and agreements” of rights of first refusal to construct transmission facilities and directed incumbent transmission providers to engage in competitive selection of developers. FERC recognized an exception if the time needed to solicit and conduct competitive bidding would delay the project and thereby threaten system “reliability.” FERC found “insufficient evidence” that ISO was incorrectly implementing Order 1000.The D.C. Circuit denied LSP’s petition for judicial review, first holding that FERC’s ruling bears all the indicia of a substantive decision produced after a contested proceeding involving ISO and numerous intervenors and is subject to judicial review. The court found nothing irrational in FERC’s response to LSP’s general criticism of ISO’s use of more conservative assumptions regarding its system capacity and future management in determining when to apply the exception. Although the number of reliability projects exempted from competitive bidding exceeded those open to competition, the appropriate balance between competitive procurement and quick redress of reliability needs is a policy judgment for FERC. View "LSP Transmission Holdings II, LLC v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law