Justia North Carolina Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Utilities Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's grant of summary judgment for the City of Concord and dismissing Plaintiffs' claims of illegal fees, holding that the language of a series of local acts unambiguously granted the City of Concord the authority to levy water and wastewater connection fees against Plaintiffs for services to be furnished.In 2004, Concord adopted an ordinance requiring residential subdivision developers to pay fees for water and wastewater service before a subdivision plat would be accepted for recording. In 2016, the ordinance was updated so that the fees were due at the time of acquiring a permit. Plaintiffs, developers who paid water and wastewater connection fees to the City, brought this action seeking a declaratory judgment that the fees were ultra vires because the City could not collect fees prior to furnishing sewer and water services to Plaintiffs' subdivisions. The trial court granted summary judgment for the City. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that there was no genuine issue as to any material fact with respect to the City's legislative authority to charge fees for services "to be furnished" by the City. View "JVC Enterprises, LLC v. City of Concord" on Justia Law

Posted in: Utilities Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part orders entered by the North Carolina Utilities Commission addressing applications filed by Duke Energy Progress, LLC and Duke Energy Carolinas, LLC, holding that the Commission erred by rejecting an equitable sharing proposal without properly considering and making findings and conclusions concerning "all other material facts," as required by N.C. Gen. Stat. 62-133(d).Various interveners representing the utilities' consumers appealed the Commission's orders, challenging the lawfulness of the Commission's decisions concerning the extent to which the utilities were entitled to reflect costs associated with the storage and disposal of ash resulting from electricity production in coal-fired electric generating units in the cost of service used to set the utilities' North Carolina retail rates. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding that the Commission (1) did not err by allowing the inclusion of a majority to the utilities' coal ash costs in the cost of service used for establishing North Carolina retail rates and in increasing Duke Energy Carolinas' residential basic facilities charge; but (2) erred in rejecting an equitable sharing proposal without making the statutorily required findings and conclusions. View "State ex rel. Utilities Commission v. Stein" on Justia Law

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In 2013, legislation was enacted requiring the City of Asheville to involuntarily transfer the assets it uses to operate a public water system to a newly-created metropolitan water and sewerage district. The City filed a complaint and motion seeking injunctive relief, alleging that the involuntary transfer provisions of the legislation were unconstitutional. The trial court concluded that the involuntary transfer violated various provisions of the North Carolina Constitution and permanently enjoined the State from enforcing the legislation. The court of appeals reversed, in part, the trial court’s order and remanded to the trial court for the entry of summary judgment in favor of the State. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the challenged legislation constitutes a prohibited local act relating to health and sanitation in violation of Article II, Section 24(1)(a) of the North Carolina Constitution. View "City of Asheville v. State" on Justia Law

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Aqua North Carolina (Aqua), a public utility providing water and utility service, requested authority from the North Carolina Utilities Commission to implement a rate adjustment mechanism of the type described in N.C. Gen. Stat. 62-133.12. After a hearing, the Commission approved Aqua’s request, finding that the request to implement a rate adjustment mechanism was in the public interest. The Attorney General appealed the Commission’s order. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission provided sufficient findings, reasoning, and conclusions to support its finding that the mechanism is in the public interest and that the Commission’s determination is supported by substantial evidence in view of the record as a whole. View "State ex rel. Utils. Comm'n v. Cooper" on Justia Law

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Duke Energy Progress filed an application with the North Carolina Utilities Commission requesting authority to increase its retail electric service rates and that rates be established using a return on equity (ROE) of 11.25 percent. The Commission entered an order approving an ROE of 10.2 percent. The Attorney General, who had intervened in the proceedings, appealed the Commission’s order. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission made sufficient findings of fact regarding the impact of changing economic conditions upon customers and that these findings were supported by competent, material, and substantial evidence in view of the entire record. View "State ex rel. Utils. Comm'n v. Cooper" on Justia Law

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Dominion North Carolina filed an application with the North Carolina Utilities Commission requesting an 11.25 percent return on equity (ROE), among other things. During the course of public hearings, the Commission received evidence that Dominion made certain adjustments to a study of the costs of providing retail electric service to a large industrial customer. The Commission ultimately issued an order approving an ROE of 10.2 percent and approving of Dominion’s adjustments to the cost-of-service study. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the Commission did not err by approving Dominion’s adjustments to the cost-of-service study; but (2) the portion of the Commission’s order in which it authorized a 10.2 percent ROE for Dominion did not contain sufficient findings of fact to demonstrate that it was supported by competent and substantial evidence. Remanded. View "State ex rel. Utils. Comm'n v. Attorney Gen." on Justia Law

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Duke Energy Carolinas, LLC (Duke) filed an application with the North Carolina Utilities Commission (Commission) to increase its state retail electric service rates approximately 15.2 percent over current revenues. The application requested that rates be established using a return on equity (ROE) of 11.5 percent. The Commission approved a 10.5 percent ROE for Duke. The attorney general appealed the Commission's order, arguing that the order was legally deficient because it was not supported by competent, material, and substantial evidence and did not include sufficient conclusions and reasoning. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Commission failed to make the necessary findings of fact to support its ROE determination. Remanded to the Commission to enter sufficient findings of fact. View "State ex rel. Utils. Comm'n v. Attorney Gen." on Justia Law