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

Articles Posted in Utilities 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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The DC Circuit denied petitions for review challenging FERC's orders approving PJM's tariff that determined the rates paid to energy providers for providing electric capacity in the broad mid-Atlantic region. Petitioners argued that FERC lacked substantial evidence to approve the estimates of labor costs that formed part of the calculation of the cost of new entry; FERC should have accepted the labor-cost calculations of petitioners' expert; and FERC erred in approving another input to the estimated cost of new entry. The court held that petitioners' objections failed to undermine the substantial evidence supporting FERC's figure for the cost of new entry and failed to overcome the court's deferential standard of review. View "PJM Power Providers Group v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied petitions for review challenging FERC's orders approving PJM's tariff that determined the rates paid to energy providers for providing electric capacity in the broad mid-Atlantic region. Petitioners argued that FERC lacked substantial evidence to approve the estimates of labor costs that formed part of the calculation of the cost of new entry; FERC should have accepted the labor-cost calculations of petitioners' expert; and FERC erred in approving another input to the estimated cost of new entry. The court held that petitioners' objections failed to undermine the substantial evidence supporting FERC's figure for the cost of new entry and failed to overcome the court's deferential standard of review. View "PJM Power Providers Group 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

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Petitioners challenged two sets of orders issued by the Commission regarding a scarcity pricing mechanism in the New England power market. The DC Circuit held that the exhaustion requirements of the Federal Power Act (FPA), 16 U.S.C. 824d, deprived it of jurisdiction over the petition to review the Tariff Order. Therefore, the court dismissed the petition in Case No. 16-1023. The court held, on the merits, that the Commission was not arbitrary or capricious in denying petitioners' complaint and thus denied the petition in Case No. 16-1024 seeking review of the Complaint Order. View "New England Power Generators Association v. FERC" on Justia Law

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Before the DC Circuit's decision in Albany Engineering Corp. v. FERC, 548 F.3d 1071 (D.C. Cir. 2008), parallel federal and New York state regulatory regimes required downstream hydroelectric facilities to reimburse their headwater counterparts for certain costs. Albany changed that dual-track regulatory scheme by holding that the New York State assessment regime was preempted by section 10(f) of the Federal Power Act (FPA), which entitled the District to recover only "interest, maintenance, and depreciation" costs. In the wake of Albany, Erie petitioned FERC to credit it for costs the District had assessed it in excess of the federally mandated costs. The Commission denied Erie's request and denied a rehearing, based on its determining that Erie and the District had formally settled their state law dispute over headwater charges in 2006. The DC Circuit denied Erie's petition to vacate the Commission's orders, rejecting Erie's contention that the Commission's two 2015 orders ran contrary to section 10(f) of the FPA; the 2006 Settlement; the Commission's regulations; and a "legion of prior, unchallenged Commission orders." View "Erie Boulevard Hydropower, LP v. FERC" on Justia Law