Articles Posted in Utilities Law

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Transco, which operates the 10,000-mile-long Transcontinental Pipeline from South Texas to New York City, sought a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the Leidy Southeast Expansion Project, including construction of four new pipeline “loops” and the upgrade of turbines at four compressor stations. The Skillman Loop and the Pleasant Run Loop, totaling 13.23 miles, would be located in New Jersey; the Franklin Loop and Dorrance Loop, totaling 16.74 miles, would be located in Pennsylvania. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) completed the requisite Environmental Assessment and issued the certificate in December 2014, conditioned on Transco’s receipt of “all applicable authorizations under federal law” enumerated in the Environmental Assessment, including from New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Pursuant to the Clean Water Act, the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Departments of Environmental Protection (PADEP, NJDEP) reviewed Transco’s proposal for potential water quality impacts and issued. In consolidated appeals, the Third Circuit upheld the approvals. NJDEP and PADEP did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in issuing the permits. View "New Jersey Conservation Foundation v. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection" on Justia Law

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Columbia, an interstate natural gas company subject to the jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), seeks to replace a portion of a natural gas pipeline that runs in and around York County, Pennsylvania. Because the original location of the pipeline has become heavily populated, the replacement will not track the original line but will be outside the existing right of way. To obtain easements necessary to complete construction of the replacement, in 2013, Columbia filed Complaints in Condemnation against four Landowners in federal court. The district court held that Columbia did not have the right of eminent domain required to condemn the easements, reasoning that 18 C.F.R. 157.202(b)(2)(i), was ambiguous. The Third Circuit reversed, finding that the regulation clearly anticipates replacement outside the existing right of way and contains no adjacency requirement. The district court erroneously adopted its own definition of “replace” and concluded that a “notice” of “proposed rulemaking” for “Emergency Reconstruction of Interstate Natural Gas Facilities” promulgated by FERC after 9/11 was relevant. View "Columbia Gas Transmission, LLC v. 1.01 Acres in Penn Twp" on Justia Law

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The Federal Power Act, 16 U.S.C. 791a., authorizes federal regulation of transmitting and selling electric power in interstate commerce and grants the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) jurisdiction over transmission of electric energy in interstate commerce and sale of such energy at wholesale in interstate commerce. The “filed rate doctrine” requires that interstate power rates filed with or fixed by FERC be given binding effect by state utility commissions determining intrastate rates. The electric companies suffered $250 million in “line losses,” energy lost when electricity travels over power lines, and interest related to those costs. Their line losses had increased under a mandate by FERC relating to calculation. The companies attempted to recover those costs on their customers’ utility bills. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) rejected their proposal to classify line-loss costs as a cost of transmission (as opposed to a cost of electricity generation), preventing them from passing those costs through to their customers. The companies lost in Pennsylvania state courts; the U.S. Supreme Court denied review. The companies then sought declaratory judgment and injunctive relief in federal court against the PUC. The district court held that their unsuccessful state efforts precluded relief in federal court under the doctrine of issue preclusion. The Third Circuit affirmed. View "Metro. Edison Co. v. PA Pub. Util. Co." on Justia Law

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Dissatisfied with the stock and reliability of power-generating facilities in New Jersey, the state adopted the Long Term Capacity Pilot Program Act (LCAPP), instructing New Jersey’s Board of Public Utilities to promote construction of new power-generating facilities in the state. Rather than pay for the construction of these plants directly, the Board of Public Utilities crafted a set of contracts, called Standard Offer Capacity Agreements, which assured new electric energy generators 15years of revenue from local utilities and, ultimately, New Jersey ratepayers. LCAPP guaranteed revenue to new generators by fixing the rates those generators would receive for supplying electrical capacity, that is, the ability to make energy when called upon. The district court found LCAPP invalid. The Third Circuit affirmed. With the Federal Power Act, Congress placed “the transmission of electric energy in interstate commerce and the sale of such energy at wholesale in interstate commerce” under federal control, 16 U.S.C. 824(a). When New Jersey arranged for LCAPP generators to receive preferential capacity rates, the state entered into a field of regulation beyond its authority. Federal law preempts, and invalidates, LCAPP and the related Standard Offer Capacity Agreements. View "PPL EnergyPlus, LLC v. Solomon" on Justia Law

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The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is a federal agency that, under the Federal Power Act, regulates rates charged by public utilities for transmission and sale of energy in interstate commerce, and rules pertaining to such rates, 16 U.S.C. 824d. In 2006, FERC approved a new tariff (rules governing interstate sale of electricity and electric capacity) for the PJM market, covering 13 states and the District of Columbia, as a result of an extensively negotiated settlement between power providers, utility companies, government authorities and others. The order required that load serving entities (LSEs) in the market procure a certain amount of energy capacity for access during peak load; included a rule that offers for the sale of capacity in the markets at artificially low prices would, with some exceptions, be required to be raised to a competitive level (mitigation). In 2011, FERC altered the 2006 Order: eliminating a mitigation exemption for resources built under state mandate; eliminating a provision that guaranteed that LSEs would be able to use “self-supply” to satisfy capacity obligations; and changing factors used in determining whether an offer was subject to mitigation. Objectors argued that the changes amounted to direct regulation of power facilities in violation of the FPA, and that FERC arbitrarily eliminated the mitigation exemption for state-mandated resources. Electric utilities challenged elimination of self-supply assurances for LSEs. Others challenged new rules governing calculation of a resource’s net cost of new entry (for determining whether an offer for sale of capacity will be mitigated) and FERC’s determination that a new generation resource must clear only one capacity auction to avoid further mitigation. The Third Circuit rejected all of the challenges. View "NJ Bd. of Pub. Utils. v. Fed Energy Regulatory Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Portland Generating Station is a 427-megawatt, coal-fired, electricity generating plant in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, directly across the Delaware River within 500 feet of Warren County, New Jersey. The EPA found that Portland emits sulfur dioxide in amounts that significantly interfere with control of air pollution across state borders. In response to a petition under the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7408, 7409)), the EPA imposed direct limits on Portland‘s emissions and restrictions to reduce its contribution to air pollution within three years. The Third Circuit upheld the EPA actions. It was reasonable for the EPA to interpret Section 126(b) as an independent mechanism for enforcing interstate pollution control, giving it authority to promulgate the Portland Rule. The contents of the Portland Rule are not arbitrary, capricious, or abusive of the EPA‘s discretion. View "GenOn REMA LLC v. U.S. Envtl. Prot. Agency" on Justia Law