Justia Florida Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Utilities Law
Sierra Club v. Brown
The Florida Public Service Commission applied the correct standard of review in its final order approving a nonunanimous settlement agreement between certain parties relating to the rates or service of a public utility providing electric service. Further, competent, substantial evidence supported the Commission’s decision. At issue was whether the Commission properly applied its public interest standard in considering and approving the settlement. The Supreme Court held (1) the public interest was the appropriate standard to apply, and there was no need for the Commission to make an express individual prudence determination; (2) the final order adequately explained the Commission’s decision; and (3) the Commission’s finding that the settlement agreement was in the public interest was supported by competent, substantial evidence. View "Sierra Club v. Brown" on Justia Law
Citizens of the State of Florida v. Graham
Florida Public Utilities Company (FPUC), an electric utility that relies solely on wholesale purchase power agreements with other electric utilities, entered into a settlement agreement with the Office of Public Counsel (OPC) in resolution of its then-pending petition for an increase in base rates. The Florida Public Service Commission unanimously approved the settlement agreement. FPUC subsequently petitioned the Commission for approval of its fuel adjustment and purchased power cost recovery factors for the year 2016. Contrary to the terms of the settlement agreement, FPUC’s petition sought to recover costs associated with constructing a new interconnection with Florida Power & Light Company (FPL). The Commission ultimately approved the recovery of the entire FPL interconnection costs. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Commission departed from the requirements of law by failing to properly consider and apply the terms of the settlement agreement with regard to FPUC’s petition; (2) the Commission erred in concluding that such construction capital expenditures are capable of recovery through fuel clause proceedings; and (3) the settlement agreement prohibited FPUC from petitioning the Commission for recovery of costs associated with the transmission interconnection project through fuel clause proceedings. View "Citizens of the State of Florida v. Graham" on Justia Law
Citizens of the State of Florida v. Art Graham, etc.
The PSC approved the recovery of FPL's costs incurred through its joint venture with an oil and natural gas company to engage in the acquisition, exploration, drilling, and development of natural gas wells in Oklahoma. The court agreed with appellants that the PSC lacks the authority to allow FPL to recover the capital investment and operations costs of its partnership in the Woodford gas reserves through the rates it charges consumers. Because the PSC exceeded its statutory authority when approving recovery of FPL’s costs and investment in the Woodford Project, the court reversed the judgment. View "Citizens of the State of Florida v. Art Graham, etc." on Justia Law
Bd. of Cnty. Comm’r Indian River Cnty. v. Art Graham, etc.
The Board challenged two separate orders of the PSC. The first order is a declaratory statement that the PSC issued in response to a petition filed by the City of Vero Beach, in which the PSC declared that the City has the right and obligation under territorial orders issued by the PSC to continue to provide electric service in the territory described in the orders (which includes unincorporated portions of the County) upon the expiration of the City’s franchise agreement with the County. The court rejected the County's challenges and held that the City had standing to seek this declaration from the PSC concerning territorial orders to which the City is a party and which the County had taken the position would be voided by the Franchise Agreement’s expiration, thereby effectively evicting the City. The court also held that the PSC’s declaration is within the PSC’s authority as the entity with exclusive and superior statutory jurisdiction to determine utility service areas, and that the declaration does not impermissibly grant the County’s property rights to the City or violate the statutory prohibition against the PSC affecting a franchise fee. The second order on appeal denies the County’s petition for a declaratory statement on the ground that it failed to meet applicable statutory requirements. The court agreed and affirmed this order without further comment. View "Bd. of Cnty. Comm'r Indian River Cnty. v. Art Graham, etc." on Justia Law
Citizens of the State of Fla. v. Pub. Serv. Comm’n
Florida Power & Light (FPL) filed an application for a rate base increase. Three intervenors to the proceedings and FPL reached a negotiated settlement agreement. After evidentiary hearings pertaining exclusively to the settlement agreement, the Florida Public Service Commission (Commission) approved the settlement agreement, finding that it established fair, just, and reasonable rates and that it was in the public interest. Citizens of the State of Florida (Citizens) appealed the decision of the Commission. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commission did not violate the essential requirements of the law or commit a material error in procedure by approving the negotiated settlement agreement over Citizens’ objection; (2) the procedures followed by the Commission did not violate Citizens’ due process rights; and (3) the Commission’s findings and conclusions were support by competent, substantial evidence and were not clearly erroneous. View "Citizens of the State of Fla. v. Pub. Serv. Comm’n" on Justia Law
Choctawhatchee Elec. Coop., Inc. v. Graham
At issue in this case was a territorial dispute between two utilities, Choctawhatchee Electric Cooperative, Inc. and Gulf Power Company, both of which sought the right to serve Freedom Walk, a proposed multi-purpose development. The Florida Public Service Commission resolved the dispute in favor of Gulf Power, concluding that because the multiple factors it considered were substantially equal, customer preference, which favored Gulf Power, would determine the outcome of the dispute. The Supreme Court affirmed the Commission’s order granting Gulf Power the right to serve the Freedom Walk development, holding that the Commission’s findings and conclusions were supported by competent substantial evidence and were not clearly erroneous.View "Choctawhatchee Elec. Coop., Inc. v. Graham" on Justia Law
Alliance for Clean Energy v. Graham
In 2008, the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) granted the petitions for determination of need for new nuclear power plants proposed by Florida Power & Light company (FPL) and Progress Energy Florida (PEF). The PSC subsequently issued orders granting the utility companies' annual petitions for recovery of their associated preconstruction costs through customer rates. Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) opposed FPL and PEF's most recent cost recovery petitions, arguing that Fla. Stat. 366.93 unconstitutionally delegates legislative authority to the PSC and, alternatively, the PSC's order authorizing the utility companies to recover preconstruction costs was arbitrary and unsupported by competent, substantial evidence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that authorizing recovery of preconstruction costs through customer rates in order to promote utility company investment in new nuclear power plants, even though those plants might never be built, is a policy decision for the Legislature, not the Court. View "Alliance for Clean Energy v. Graham" on Justia Law
Chemrock Corp. v. Tampa Elec. Co., etc.
Petitioner, a company that processed perlite for horticultural and construction use, sued respondent alleging several counts for damages based on the claim that natural gas being supplied to petitioner was contaminated with debris that caused damage to petitioner's furnaces. Discovery and trial preparation were undertaken, during which time the parties engaged in numerous disagreements concerning discovery and other matters. Neither party filed a motion to have the case reset for trial and respondent subsequently filed a notice of lack of prosecution under Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.420(e), alleging that there had been no record activity for the prior ten months. At issue was the proper interpretation of rule 1.420(e), which provided for involuntary dismissal of court actions for lack of prosecution. The court held that the filing made by petitioner during the sixty-day grace period set forth in rule 1.420(e) met the rule's requirement for record activity and therefore, precluded dismissal for lack of prosecution. Accordingly, the court quashed the decision of the First District and approved the conflict cases certified by the First District. View "Chemrock Corp. v. Tampa Elec. Co., etc. " on Justia Law