Articles Posted in Utilities Law

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Green Valley filed suit seeking an injunction based on its claim that 7 U.S.C. 1926(b) prohibits the City of Cibolo from encroaching on its sewer service. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the complaint, holding that the district court's interpretation was inconsistent with the statute's plain language. The court held that section 1926(b)'s plain language does not limit the statute's protection to services that have received federal financing. The court declined the city's invitation to read adjectives into section 1926(b) and remanded. View "Green Valley Special Utility District v. City of Cibolo" on Justia Law

Posted in: Utilities Law

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Total Gas and two of its trading managers filed a declaratory judgment action against the Commission arguing that the Commission was precluded from adjudicating violations or imposing civil penalties because the Natural Gas Act (NGA) vests authority for those activities exclusively in federal district courts. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the Commission's motion to dismiss, holding that Total's suit was not ripe for review in light of controlling precedent, Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. v. FERC. In this case, instead of objecting to any actions FERC has already taken, Total seeks to preemptively challenge a FERC order that may never be issued. The court explained that all of Total's arguments were predicated on future events and were brought before FERC has even scheduled the matter for a hearing—let alone issued an order finding a NGA violation and imposing a civil penalty. View "TOTAL Gas & Power North America, Inc. v. FERC" on Justia Law

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This case concerns a scheme of planning, cost allocation, and regulation imposed by FERC on EP Electric and the Intervenor electricity providers. EP Electric appealed from three decisions in which the Commission reviewed and required revisions to certain compliance filing that EP Electric and other utilities filed with FERC pursuant to Order No. 1000. Order No. 1000 is FERC’s rule regulating regional transmission planning and cost allocation by public utilities, also known as “jurisdictional utilities.” The court concluded that the Commission acted arbitrarily and capriciously in its mandates regarding the role of non-jurisdictional utilities in cost allocation and regional planning in the WestConnect region. Therefore, the court granted the petitions for review in part. The court vacated the Commission's Compliance Orders on these issues for further explanation and proceedings. The court denied review or dismissed in all other respects because EP Electric's remaining challenges to FERC's actions fail. View "El Paso Electric Co. v. FERC" on Justia Law

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This dispute arose under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978, Pub. L. No. 95-617, 92 Stat. 3117. At issue is whether the district court abused its discretion when it entered an order indefinitely staying this proceeding to allow the Commission to act on an administrative complaint filed by Occidental against a non-party to this action, which largely concerns the same issues. The court concluded that, under the doctrine of primary jurisdiction, a district court with subject matter jurisdiction may, under appropriate circumstances, defer to another forum, such as an administrative agency, which also has non-exclusive jurisdiction, based on its determination that the benefits of obtaining aid from that other forum outweigh the need for expeditious litigation. The court concluded that it has appellate jurisdiction under Hines v. D'Artois because Hines remains good law and this case is sufficiently close to the facts of Hines to give the court appellate jurisdiction under the “effectively out of court” rule. The court also concluded that, given that all parties agree it could take years for FERC to resolve the Integration Complaint, a deadline will give FERC a reasonable opportunity to act without the costs inherent in an indefinite delay. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's stay order and remanded with instructions. View "Occidental Chemical Corp. v. Louisiana Public Service Comm'n" on Justia Law

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LPSC sought review of FERC's orders relating to the allocation of production costs among Entergy's six operating companies. LPSC argued that certain revenues and expenses should be removed from the bandwidth calculation for 2008 because they were not incurred in that test year and that the production cost formula should account for the mid-year acquisition of generation facilities by Entergy Gulf States Louisiana and Entergy Arkansas on a partial-year basis. The court concluded that FERC reasonably excluded challenges to the "justness and reasonableness" of formula inputs from annual bandwidth implementation proceedings where FERC reasonably interpreted the System Agreement and correctly applied the filed rate doctrine, and FERC's reversal of its initial interpretation of the scope of bandwidth implementation proceedings was not arbitrary. The court also concluded that FERC reasonably required Entergy to include casualty loss Net Accumulated Deferred Income Taxes (ADIT) in its third bandwidth calculation where LPSC had notice of the casualty loss ADIT issue, and FERC's decision to include casualty loss ADIT in the bandwidth formula was rational. Accordingly, the court denied LPSC's petition for review. View "Louisiana Public Svc. Cmsn. v. FERC" on Justia Law

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This appeal concerns the Texas PUC's interpretation and implementation of a federal statutory and regulatory scheme governing the purchase of energy between public utilities and certain energy production facilities known as Qualifying Facilities. Exelon, qualifying wind generation facilities, challenged a state rule and order which prohibited it from forming Legally Enforceable Obligations when selling power. The court vacated the portion of the judgment regarding Exelon's challenge to the PUC's order and directed the district court to dismiss for want of subject matter jurisdiction. The court reversed as to the remaining challenges to the rule and remanded because PUC acted within its discretion and properly implemented the federal regulation at issue.View "Exelon Wind 1, L.L.C., et al. v. Nelson, et al." on Justia Law

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In this diversity suit, a landowner sought injunctive and compensatory relief from a telephone company for a trespass and for slandering its title to certain property. The district court granted summary judgment to the telephone company. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings, holding (1) the district court erred in concluding that the telephone company had a constructive license across the property; (2) the district court incorrectly dismissed the landowner's claim for compensatory damages; and (3) summary judgment against the landowner's claims for slander of title and punitive damages was appropriate. View "Marlow, LLC v. BellSouth Telecomms., Inc." on Justia Law

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The Commissioner sought review of a U.S. Tax Court decision favoring Entergy for the taxable years of 1997 and 1998. By reference to a companion case, the Tax Court concluded that Entergy was entitled to a foreign income tax credit for its subsidiary's payment of the United Kingdom's Windfall Tax. At issue on appeal was whether the Windfall Tax constituted a creditable foreign income tax under I.R.C. 901, 26 U.S.C. 901. The court concluded that when judged on its predominant character, the Windfall Tax was based on excess profits - realized income derived from gross receipts less deductions for substantial business expenses incurred in earning those receipts. This satisfied the three-part net gain requirement, as the Tax Court accurately noted. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Entergy Corp. v. CIR" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendants, Wayne Hagan and James Joubert, alleging that Joubert was negligently excavating on a backhoe and severed plaintiff's underground fiber-optic cable in violation of the Louisiana Damage Prevention Act, LA. REV. STAT. ANN 40:1749,11 et seq., and that Hagan was vicariously liable because Joubert was acting as his agent at the time. At issue was whether the district court erred when it refused to give the jury plaintiff's proposed instruction on trespass. Also at issue was whether the district court erred when it excluded statements made by Hagan's attorney to plaintiff's employee under Federal Rule of Evidence 408; when it refused to certify plaintiff's witness as an expert; and when it held that defendants were entitled to attorneys' fees and costs. The court certified the first issue where the Louisiana Supreme Court had not previously determined what standard of intent was used for trespass to underground utility cables and the issue was determinative of whether plaintiff was entitled to a new trial on its trespass claim. The court held that the statements made by Hagan's attorney to plaintiff's employer could have been excluded on other grounds given that it was inadmissible hearsay against Joubert and therefore, the court declined to remand for a new trial on this ground. The court also held that the district court did not commit a reversible error where plaintiff did not proffer the substance of plaintiff's witness' excluded testimony. Finally, the court deferred addressing the attorneys' fees issue pending the Louisiana Supreme Court's decision on the first issue.