Justia Maryland Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Utilities Law
Petition of the Off. Of People’s Counsel
In a dispute regarding a Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) decision to approve a rate increase for Washington Gas and Light Company (Washington Gas), the Supreme Court of Maryland held that a reviewing court must apply an arbitrary or capricious standard of review to the Commission’s interpretation of its own prior order. The issue arose from the interpretation of Condition 44, a provision in the merger order which mandated a certain level of savings for customers following the merger. The Public Service Commission interpreted this condition to mean that Washington Gas’s post-merger costs must be $800,000 per year less than they would have been without the merger. The Maryland Office of People’s Counsel (OPC) disagreed, arguing that the condition required Washington Gas’s post-merger costs to be $800,000 per year less than they were the year before the merger. The court found the Commission’s interpretation was not arbitrary or capricious, affirming the decisions of the lower courts. View "Petition of the Off. Of People's Counsel" on Justia Law
Moore v. RealPage Utility Management
In this case involving the method for determining an apartment tenant's utility bill, the Court of Appeals held that the approval requirements stated in Md. Code Pub. Util. (PU) 7-304 are applicable to all energy allocation systems in apartment houses, regardless of the construction date of the building.A federal district court issued a certified question of law in the context of a putative class action lawsuit brought by Plaintiff, on behalf of residential apartment tenants, against a residential utility billing services company working on behalf of Maryland landlords. The federal district court asked the Court of Appeals to determine whether, for apartment houses built prior to 1978, methods of energy allocation determining the billable amount of electricity or gas by means other that by the actual measurement of consumption of the individual unit are subject to the approval of the Public Service Commission, as set forth in PU 7-304. The Court of Appeals held that allocation of energy costs solely computed on the basis of square footage computations and pro rata assessments, as well as added rental components, are exempt from the approval requirements set forth PU 7-304. View "Moore v. RealPage Utility Management" on Justia Law
Office of People’s Counsel v. Maryland Public Service Commission
The Court of Appeals held that the Public Service Commission (Commission) acted within its authority when it approved the acquisition of Pepco Holdings, Inc. (PHI) and its utility subsidiaries by Exelon Corporation (Exelon).The General Assembly has provided for judicial review of decisions of the Commission assessing and either approving or rejecting an acquisition of a company that supplies electricity in the State, including a merger with another utility. At issue here was the Commission’s approval of the acquisition of PHI and its utility subsidiaries by Exelon. The circuit court and Court of Special Appeals concluded that the Commission acted within its authority when it approved the transaction. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the Commission properly considered the factors listed in Md. Code Pub. Util. Cos. 6-105(g)(2) and exercised its discretion as to what weight to accord factors other than those specifically listed in the statute; and (2) the Commission acted neither arbitrarily nor capriciously in evaluating harm to renewable and distributed generation markets. View "Office of People's Counsel v. Maryland Public Service Commission" on Justia Law
Washington Gas Light Co. v. Maryland Public Service Commission
At issue before the Court of Appeals was the correct interpretation of Md. Code Ann. Pub. Util. (PU) 4-210, known as the STRIDE statute, which allows Maryland gas companies more timely cost recovery if they submit plans that increase the pace of natural gas infrastructure improvements.The Maryland Public Service Commission, the circuit court of Montgomery County, and the court of special appeals each concluded that the STRIDE statute provides accelerated cost recovery only for gas infrastructure projects located in the State. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the STRIDE statute’s legislative history supports this Court’s interpretation that PU 4-210 is unambiguous and requires that “gas infrastructure improvements” be located “in the State” in order promptly to recover investment costs separate from base rate proceedings. View "Washington Gas Light Co. v. Maryland Public Service Commission" on Justia Law
Reliable Contracting Co. v. Underground Facilities Damage Prevention Auth.
Maryland Underground Damage Prevention Authority cited Reliable Contracting Company for violating Md. Code Ann. Pub. Util. Cos. 12-101, under which advance notice must be given to the one-call system of certain types of excavation, and imposed a civil monetary penalty. Reliable Contracting petitioned for judicial review, asserting that the Authority’s enabling statute conferred judicial power on a non-judicial body in violation of separation of powers principles. Reliable Contracting also contended that the statute failed to provide adequate guidance to the Authority for the assessment of such penalties. The circuit court upheld the constitutionality of the statute. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals and remanded, holding (1) the Authority is an administrative agency in the executive branch of State government that exercises quasi-judicial powers subject to judicial review, and therefore, its enabling law is not contrary to the State Constitution’s Judicial Vesting Clause or Separation of Powers Clause; and (2) because the Authority is an administrative agency, Md. Code Ann. State Gov't 10-1001 provides guidelines for the exercise of its discretion in assessing civil penalties. View "Reliable Contracting Co. v. Underground Facilities Damage Prevention Auth." on Justia Law
Washington Suburban Sanitary Comm’n v. Lafarge N.A., Inc.
Lafarge North America, Inc., the operator of a ready-mix concrete plant, sought a refund from the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) for allegedly improperly assessed and paid water and sewer service charges for operation of the plant. Large’s claim was deemed denied because of the WSSC’s failure to render a timely decision. The circuit court reversed the WSSC’s deemed denial of Lafarge’s claim and remanded the matter to the WSSC with directions to determine and issue an appropriate refund, concluding that the deemed denial was not supported by substantial evidence in the record and was arbitrary and capricious. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, given the legislative intent to provide for refunds when charges are erroneously assessed, it is appropriate to remand the case to the WSSC for calculation of the amount of the refund due. View "Washington Suburban Sanitary Comm’n v. Lafarge N.A., Inc." on Justia Law
Commc’ns Workers of Am., ALF-CIO v. Pub. Serv. Comm’n of Md.
Verizon Maryland, a telecommunications company, and the staff of the Public Service Commission (PSC) obtained PSC approval of a global settlement of six pending cases. Verizon employed an alternative form of regulation (AFOR) under Md. Code Ann. Pub. Util. Co. (PUC) 4-301 that included up to $6,000,000 in bill credits to customers with out-of-service complaints that were not resolved in compliance with specified standards. PSC approved the AFOR pursuant to PUC 4-301. A technicians union objected, contending that the service quality aspects of the AFOR did not ensure the quality, availability, and reliability of service required by PUC 4-301. The circuit court affirmed PSC's approval of the AFOR. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that PSC acted within its discretion in approving the AFOR, as PUC 4-301's use of the term "ensuring" did not require that PSC be completely certain that Verizon's incentive strategy would result in compliance with standards. View "Commc'ns Workers of Am., ALF-CIO v. Pub. Serv. Comm'n of Md." on Justia Law