Justia U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Utilities Law
Old Dominion Electric Cooperative v. PJM Interconnection, LLC
Following severe cold weather in January 2014, Old Dominion, a nonprofit electric utility that serves customers in Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware, unsuccessfully sought to recover certain electricity generation costs from PJM, a “regional transmission organization” that operates the electrical grid in a defined geographic area, in an administrative proceeding before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Old Dominion filed suit in Virginia state court, pursuing four putative state law claims, seeking the same relief unsuccessfully claimed before FERC. PJM removed the case, arguing that the complaint contests electricity transmission rates set forth in PJM’s federally filed tariff and that the district court was vested with federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1331.The district court denied Old Dominion’s remand motion and dismissed each of its claims with prejudice, as effectively challenging the terms of PJM’s federal tariff. The court concluded that the “filed-rate doctrine” barred it from awarding damages on Old Dominion’s claims. The Fourth Circuit affirmed. Old Dominion’s claims necessarily present a substantial question of federal law by seeking relief precluded by the PJM Tariff, asking a state court to fix a reasonable tariffed rate applicable only to the utility’s 2014 losses, and effectively challenging the terms and enforceability of the Tariff’s rate cap. The district court correctly dismissed those claims. View "Old Dominion Electric Cooperative v. PJM Interconnection, LLC" on Justia Law
Tommy Davis Construction, Inc. v. Cape Fear Public Utility
Davis Construction filed suit against the Authority seeking a refund of the impact fees it had paid to the Water and Sewer District. At issue was whether the County acted ultra vires in collecting fees on behalf of the District from Davis Construction for water and sewer services that the District did not provide and had no concrete plans or immediate ability to provide. The court affirmed the district court's ruling that the County acted ultra vires in collecting the fees on behalf of the District and ordered both the County and the successor to the District, the Authority, to refund the fees in the amount of $34,268.96, together with prejudgment interest. The court also affirmed the district court's award of attorneys fees and costs to Davis Construction. View "Tommy Davis Construction, Inc. v. Cape Fear Public Utility" on Justia Law
Posted in: Utilities Law
Genon Mid-Atlantic, LLC v. Montgomery County, Maryland
Plaintiff, operator of an electricity plant, sued defendant ("the county"), seeking to enjoin Expedited Bill 29-10, which imposed a levy on large stationary emitters of carbon dioxide within the county, on the ground that it violated the United States and Maryland Constitutions. At issue was whether a Montgomery County exaction on carbon dioxide emissions, levied only upon plaintiff's electricity-generating facility, was a tax or a fee. The court held that the carbon charge, which targeted a single emitter and was located squarely within the county's own "programmatic efforts to reduce" greenhouse gas emissions, was a punitive and regulatory fee over which the federal courts retained jurisdiction. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings.