Justia Maryland Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Energy, Oil & Gas Law
Small MS4 Coalition v. Department of Environment
The Court of Appeals affirmed the decisions of the lower courts affirming a general permit that the Maryland Department of the Environment issued for operators of thirty-five small municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s) in Maryland, including Petitioner Queen Anne's County, which operated a small MS4, holding that conditions based on regulations of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the general permit for small MS4s are not unlawful simply because they may exceed the minimum requirements of the Clean Water Act.In Maryland Department of the Environment v. County Commissioners of Carroll County, 140 S. Ct. 1265 (2020), the Court of Appeals held that permits issued to counties that operated MS4s were lawful even if some permit conditions exceeded the minimum requirements of the Act. In the instant case, the circuit court for Queen Anne's County concluded that the decision in Carroll County addressed the issues raised by the County and affirmed the permit. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the holdings of Carroll County applied in this case; and (2) an impervious surface restoration requirement in the permit, which was similar to but less onerous than a permit requirement assessed in Carroll County, did not unlawfully make the County responsible for discharges by third parties. View "Small MS4 Coalition v. Department of Environment" on Justia Law
Accokeek, Mattawoman, Piscataway Creeks Community Council, Inc. v. Public Service Commission
Dominion Cove Point LNG, LP, the owner and operator of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal, applied to FERC and the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) for authorization to expand the terminal into a facility that could both import and export LNG. Because the expansion project included the proposed construction of a 130-megawatt electric generating station, PSC approval, through the grant of a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN), was required. Petitioner, a consortium dedicated to protecting local waterways, was allowed to intervene in the proceeding to oppose Dominion’s application. PSC granted the CPCN subject to approximately 200 conditions. The circuit court and court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) two of the conditions imposed by PSC in its grant of the CPCN did not constitute taxes or mandatory payments; (2) Petitioner’s argument that PCS’s alleged failure to identify the value it assigned to positive economic value in favor of the CPCN prevented Petitioner from effectively challenging the PSC decision was without merit; and (3) PSC’s valuation of the economic benefit created by the generating station was supported by substantial evidence in the record. View "Accokeek, Mattawoman, Piscataway Creeks Community Council, Inc. v. Public Service Commission" on Justia Law
Dep’t of Assessments v. Baltimore Gas & Elec. Co.
To facilitate the transition to a competitive market for the supply of electricity, the Legislature provided that consumers would receive certain credits over the period of a year to mitigate a large projected increase in Baltimore Gas & Electric Company's (BGE) rates for the supply of electricity. The overall scheme involving credits, charges, and bond financing was known as the rate stabilization plan. Following passage of the rate stabilization law, BGE took the position that the legislation had the effect of deferring part of its franchise tax liability during the period that credits were applied to customers' bills. The Department of Assessments rejected BGE's position. BGE filed a refund claim, which was rejected. The tax court upheld the Department's denial. The circuit court concluded that the deferral credit affected BGE's distribution revenues for purposes of computing its franchise tax liability, that the tax court decision would subject BGE to double taxation, and that BGE was entitled to the claimed refund. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that, in establishing the rate stabilization plan, the legislature neither intentionally nor inadvertently provided for the credits and charges to affect BGE's franchise tax liability. Remanded. View "Dep't of Assessments v. Baltimore Gas & Elec. Co." on Justia Law
County Council v. Billings, et al.
Developer Eastern Petroleum Company sought the necessary approvals for the proposed expansion of a gas station from the appropriate local agencies, each of which held public hearings. The respondents, a group of nearby residents (citizens), appeared in opposition at the agency level. After the hearings the local agencies granted both zoning approvals. The district council elected to review the zoning decisions, but before any review proceedings, the council withdrew its election to review the local decisions and declared the agency decisions final. The citizens filed an action for judicial review of the council's decision in the circuit court, which dismissed the action. On appeal, the court of special appeals reversed and remanded. At issue was whether the withdrawal of election to review was a final decision and whether the administrative exhaustion requirement precluded the citizens' claim. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals, holding that (1) the citizens were eligible to seek review of the council decision, (2) the citizens exhausted their administrative remedies by appearing at the agency hearings, and (3) the district council may not withdraw its election to review and finalize the local agency decisions without following the statutory procedure to review. View "County Council v. Billings, et al." on Justia Law