Justia Texas Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Utilities Law
Time Warner Cable Texas LLC v. CPS Energy
The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the district court affirming the conclusions of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that CPS Energy violated both Tex. Util. Code 54.204(c)'s uniform-charge requirement and section 54.204(b)'s prohibition of discrimination, holding that the PUC could reasonably have concluded, as it did, that CPS Energy violated the plain terms of section 54.204(b). The PUC concluded that a utility that invoices different telecommunications providers a uniform rate nevertheless violates section 54.204(b) if it fails to take timely action to ensure that all pole attachers actually pay the uniform rate it invoices. The court of appeals reversed, holding that if a telecommunications provider does not pay the rate the utility uniformly charges, any discriminatory effect is the telecommunication provider's fault, not the utility's. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the PUC's finding that CPS Energy failed to make any serious or meaningful effort to collect from AT&T Texas was supported by substantial evidence, and the effect on Time Warner Cable was clearly discriminatory. View "Time Warner Cable Texas LLC v. CPS Energy" on Justia Law
Posted in: Communications Law, Energy, Oil & Gas Law, Government & Administrative Law, Utilities Law
City of Richardson v. Oncor Electric Delivery Co.
The pro-forma provision in the tariff in this case, which set the rates and terms for a utility’s relationship with its retail customers, did not conflict with a prior franchise agreement, which reflected the common law rule requiring utilities to pay public right-of-way relocation costs, or the common law, and the franchise agreement controlled as to the relocation costs at issue. At issue was whether the City of Richardson or Oncor Electric Delivery Company must pay relocation costs to accommodate changes to public rights-of-way. The City negotiated a franchise agreement with Oncor requiring Oncor to bear the costs of relocating its equipment and facilities to accommodate changes to public rights-of-way, but Oncor refused to pay such costs. While the relocation dispute was pending, Oncor filed a case with the Public Utility Commission (PUC) seeking to alter its rates. The case was settled, and the resulting rate change was filed as a tariff with the PUC. The City enacted an ordinance consistent with the tariff, which included the pro-forma provision at issue. The Supreme Court held that the provision in the tariff did not conflict with the franchise contract’s requirement that Oncor pay the right-of-way relocation costs at issue. View "City of Richardson v. Oncor Electric Delivery Co." on Justia Law
Posted in: Government & Administrative Law, Government Contracts, Real Estate & Property Law, Utilities Law
Oncor Electric Delivery Co. v. Public Utility Commission of Texas
In 2002, the Public Utilities Regulatory Act (PURA) implemented a competitive retail market for electricity in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. Each incumbent, vertically integrated electric utility within the market was required to unbundle its business activities into separate units, including a transmission and distribution utility (TDU). Of the units, only TDUs continued to be regulated by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). Here, several parties to a TDU ratemaking proceeding sought judicial review of the PUC’s order. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals, holding (1) PURA section 36.351, which requires electric electric utilities to discount charges for service provided to state college and university facilities, does not apply to TDUs; (2) former PURA section 36.060(a), which required an electric utility’s income taxes to be computed as though it had filed a consolidated return with a group of its affiliates eligible to do so under federal tax law, did not require a utility to adopt a corporate structure so as to be part of the group; and (3) the evidence in this matter established that franchise charges negotiated by the TDU with various municipalities were reasonable and necessary operating expenses under PURA section 33.008. View "Oncor Electric Delivery Co. v. Public Utility Commission of Texas" on Justia Law
Southwestern Bell Telephone, LP v. Emmett
Southwestern Bell Telephone, LP, doing business as AT&T Texas, was a public utility company with facilities attached to a city bridge designated for destruction. AT&T sued the City of Houston and the Harris County Commissioners seeking an injunction preventing the removal of its facilities from the bridge and a declaratory judgment that Tex. Water Code Ann. 49.223 required the Harris County Flood Control District to bear any relocation costs. The trial court granted summary judgment to the City and the Commissioners’ pleas to the jurisdiction. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the relocation costs sought by AT&T were not clearly within the statute’s purview. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that AT&T was entitled to declaratory relief that payment of its relocation expenses by the District was required by section 49.223. View "Southwestern Bell Telephone, LP v. Emmett" on Justia Law
Posted in: Utilities Law
Tex. Coast Utils. Coal. v. R.R. Comm’n of Tex.
CenterPoint Energy Resources Corporation, a gas utility that distributes natural gas, sought to raise its rates. CenterPoint’s proposed rate schedule included a “cost of service adjustment” (COSA) clause. The Railroad Commission of Texas approved a rate increase, including a revised COSA clause that provided for automatic annual adjustments based on increases or decreases in CenterPoint’s cost of service. On judicial review, the district court held that the Commission lacked the statutory authority to adopt the COSA clause as part of CenterPoint’s rate schedule. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission had the authority to enter the final order in this case, including the COSA clause. Remanded. View "Tex. Coast Utils. Coal. v. R.R. Comm’n of Tex." on Justia Law
Traxler v. Entergy Gulf State, Inc.
Petitioner suffered injuries when he was struck by a power line belonging to Entergy. Petitioner filed a negligence per se claim against Entergy based on petitioner's claim that the power line was less than 22 feet above the surface of the traffic lane as allegedly required by Section 181.045 of the Texas Utilities Code. After a jury verdict favorable to petitioner, the trial court rendered a judgment for him. The court of appeals reversed, holding that Entergy was not required to maintain the line at the height petitioner claimed was required by statute. Because the court agreed with petitioner's construction of the relevant statutes, the court reversed the judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Traxler v. Entergy Gulf State, Inc." on Justia Law
AEP Texas Central Co. v. Public Utility Comm’n of Texas, et al.
This appeal challenged a final order of the Public Utility Commission (PUC) in a true-up proceeding under Chapter 39 of the Utilities Code. AEP Texas Central Co. (AEP), a transmission and distribution utility, and CPL Retail Energy, L.P., its affiliated retail electric provider, initiated a proceeding under section 39.262 to finalize stranded costs and other true-up amounts and the state, several municipalities, and several other parties who were consumers of electricity or represent consumer interests (collectively, consumers), intervened in the proceeding. The issues before the court concern market value, net book value (NBV), and the capacity auction true-up. The court held that where, as here, the utility managed to sell its stake in a nuclear plant, the court saw no error in using the sale of assets method, which was, if anything, the preferred method for valuing generation assets. The court also held that it saw no error in PUC's approach where the interest rate AEP received on its stranded costs was grossed up. The court further held that section 39.262 unambiguously specified that the statutory capacity auction price, not some other blended price the PUC found more appropriate, must be used in calculating the capacity auction true-up amount. On remand, the PUC must recalculate the capacity auction true-up in a manner consistent with the court's opinion in State v. PUC, rather than relying on the proxy price it selected in the true-up proceeding. Accordingly, the court granted the petition for review, affirming in part and reversing in part. View "AEP Texas Central Co. v. Public Utility Comm'n of Texas, et al." on Justia Law
Posted in: Energy, Oil & Gas Law, Government & Administrative Law, Texas Supreme Court, Utilities Law