Justia U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Utilities Law
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Petitioners challenged FERC's refund order in a cost-allocation case where the agency found that the rate-distribution methodology was unjust and unreasonable. FERC ordered refunds to customers who paid too much, funded by surcharges on customers who paid too little. The DC Circuit denied the petitions for review and held that the reallocation at issue did not constitute an impermissible retroactive rate increase where FERC reasonably determined that the prior rate methodology was unjust and unreasonable, and its reliance on certain evidence in reaching this conclusion was appropriate. FERC had authority to order refunds and corresponding surcharges under Section 206 of the Federal Power Act and its broad remedial authority under Section 309, because it had established that the existing rate was unjust and unreasonable, and that a different methodology would comply with cost-causation principles. View "Verso Corp. v. FERC" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged FERC's failure to account for the effect on electricity prices of the permanent retirement of the Brayton Point Power Station, a coal-fired electric plant in Somerset, Massachusetts. Petitioners alleged that the closure was an attempt to manipulate the results of forward capacity auction (FCA 8). The DC Circuit held that it lacked jurisdiction to consider the petition in the absence of final agency action. In two later proceedings, petitioners asked FERC to correct for what they assert were effects of Brayton Point’s illegal closure on the next two annual forward capacity auctions (FCA 9 and FCA 10). FERC denied the petitions and approved FCA 9 and FCA 10 results.The court held that petitioners lacked standing to challenge FERC's acceptance of the FCA 9 and FCA 10 results because no record evidence established a causal link between the claimed manipulative closure of Brayton Point and the clearing prices of FCA 9 and FCA 10 that FERC approved. View "Utility Workers Union of America Local 464 v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied Duke's petition for review of the Commission's denial of Duke's complaint against PJM under the Federal Power Act (FPA), 16 U.S.C. 825e. To prepare for a bitterly cold day during the January 2014 polar vortex, Duke purchased expensive natural gas which it ended up not needing. Duke then claimed that PJM, its regional transmission organization, directed it to purchase the gas and that the governing tariff provided for indemnification. The court held that the Commission's finding that PJM never directed Duke to buy gas was supported by substantial evidence on the record. Therefore, the court had no need to address Duke's remaining argument that, had such a directive been issued, the tariff would have authorized indemnification. View "Duke Energy Corp. v. FERC" on Justia Law

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After Old Dominion found that its operational costs during the January 2014 polar vortex outstripped the amounts it could charge for electricity under the governing tariff, it asked the Commission to waive provisions of the governing tariff retroactively so that it could recover its costs. The DC Circuit denied Old Dominion's petition for review of the Commission's denial of Old Dominion's request based on the ground that such retroactive charges would violate the filed rate doctrine and the rule against retroactive ratemaking. In this case, the court afforded the Commission's interpretation of the filed tariff and the PJM Operating Agreement substantial deference where there was no dispute that the PJM Tariff's filed rate did not allow the cost recovery that Old Dominion sought. The court also denied the motion of Independent Market Monitor to intervene, but accorded it amicus curiae status. View "Old Dominion Electric Cooperative v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied the Arkansas Commission's petition for review of a final FERC order. The FERC order held that an operating company withdrawing from a multi-state energy system must continue to share the proceeds of a pre-departure settlement with the other member companies. The court held that FERC had a lawful basis to order the sharing of the benefits of the settlement and was reasoned in its allocation methodology. Therefore, FERC's order for Entergy Arkansas to share the Union Pacific Settlement benefits and its method for allocating the settlement was not arbitrary, capricious, or contrary to law. View "Arkansas Public Service Comm. v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit granted a petition for review of FERC's assertion of Natural Gas Act (NGA) jurisdiction over the transportation and sale of natural gas for resale from the City of Clarksville, Tennessee to the City of Guthrie, Kentucky. As a preliminary matter, the court rejected FERC's standing and ripeness challenges to the court's authority to hear the petition for review. On the merits, the court saw no reason to deviate from the clear and unambiguous language of the statute, as well as FERC precedent, and held that Clarksville was a municipality that was exempt from regulation under NGA Section 7. The court also rejected FERC's alternative argument and held that the articulation of the scope of FERC's jurisdiction did not mean that Congress gave FERC jurisdiction over everything within the three areas listed by FERC. Therefore, the court vacated FERC's order. View "City of Clarksville, Tennessee v. FERC" on Justia Law

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NorthWestern challenged FERC's determination that its proposed rate was not just and reasonable. The DC Circuit held that FERC's decision in this case was reasonable and reasonably explained where FERC reasonably modified NorthWestern's proposed cost-calculation ratio by excluding the megawatts associated with "regulation down" from the numerator; FERC did not arbitrarily increase the denominator of NorthWestern's proposed cost-calculation ratio; FERC's decision on fuel costs was reasonable and reasonably explained; and FERC acted reasonably by requiring NorthWestern to make separate Section 205 filings. The court also held that FERC properly decided to treat this case like an ordinary over-collection case and ordered a refund. Therefore, the court denied the petition for review. View "NorthWestern Corp. v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit dismissed KCC's petition for review, holding that KCC has not suffered an injury in fact sufficient to establish standing. KCC asserted that the Commission acted unlawfully by approving formula rates—which help determine the electric rates charged by public utilities to consumers in FERC jurisdictions—for future public utilities to use in operating electric transmission facilities. The court held that KCC failed to affirmatively demonstrate how it was adversely affected by the FERC's order and there was no substantial probability that the harms KCC identified would occur. View "Kansas Corporation Commission v. FERC" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged four FERC orders that uphold the current iteration of the Tariff that governs electricity rates in New England. The Tariff, a patchwork of rules and orders adopted by the Independent System Operator of New England (ISO-NE) and approved by FERC, governs how Forward Capacity Market participants buy and sell future capacity. The DC Circuit granted the petitions for review, holding that FERC failed to offer adequate rationale and explanation in the challenged orders. In this case, FERC failed to respond to the substantial arguments put forward by petitioners and failed to square its decision with its past precedent. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "New England Power Generators Association, Inc. v. FERC" on Justia Law

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FERC issued a series of orders empowering incoming generators within the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) region to elect to self-fund this new construction, or to seek financing from third parties, regardless of whether the current grid owners wish to fund the construction themselves. The DC Circuit vacated the orders, holding that there was neither evidence nor economic logic supporting FERC's discriminatory theory as applied to transmission owners without affiliated generation assets. The court also held that FERC did not adequately respond to petitioners' argument that involuntary generator funding compelled them to construct, own, and operate facilities without compensatory network upgrade charges – thus forcing them to accept additional risk without corresponding return as essentially non-profit managers of these upgrade facilities. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Ameren Services Co. v. FERC" on Justia Law