Articles Posted in Utilities Law

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Appellants sued the town of Alpine, alleging claims stemming from Alpine’s financing and construction of a new sewage treatment facility. Appellants sought a declaration that Alpine’s loans for the new sewage treatment facility exceeded the town’s constitutional and statutory indebtedness limits. Appellant’s also asserted a claim for injunctive relief to stop Alpine from enforcing assessments and exactions for the new sewerage system on Appellants. A few years later, while the original case was proceeding, Appellants filed another action against Alpine and Nelson Engineering, claiming that Alpine and Nelson made false reports to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality that Appellants had violated the agency’s rules and regulations when they upgraded their septic systems. The district court granted Alpine’s motion to dismiss all claims against the town and granted Nelson’s motion for summary judgment on all claims against the engineering firm. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) Appellants sufficiently pled standing to pursue their declaratory judgment claim against Alpine; (2) the allegations supporting Appellants’ claim for injunctive relief against Alpine were legally sufficient; and (3) the district court’s respective orders on all the remaining claims in the two cases against Alpine and Nelson were not in error. View "Tavern, LLC v. Town of Alpine" on Justia Law

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The City of Torrington brought this action seeking judgment declaring that it was authorized to set rates for electrical services it provided to customers outside the City limits and that it had discretion to utilize revenues from the provision of electricity for other City expenses. The district court (1) determined that the Public Service Commission (PSC) has the exclusive jurisdiction over the rates of the City’s electric utility service provided to customers outside the City’s corporate limits; and (2) declined to rule on the question of whether the City was properly utilizing revenues from the sale of electricity, holding that there was no justiciable controversy regarding that issue. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the applicable statutes clearly and unambiguously grant the PSC the exclusive power to set rates for electricity provided to customers outside the City corporate limits; and (2) the district court properly declined to rule on the question of the City’s expenditure of electricity revenues. View "City of Torrington v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Montana-Dakota Utilities Company (MDU) was ordered by the Wyoming Public Service Commission to make refunds of the amounts MDU had overcharged its customers because of improper calculations and adjustments to its commodity balancing account. MDU filed a petition for review, challenging the legal authority of the Commission to order refunds. The district court affirmed the Commission’s decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the rule against retroactive ratemaking did not preclude the Commission from ordering the refund; (2) the Commission’s refund order did not violate the file rate doctrine; (3) the Commission was not subject to a statute of limitations in this case; (4) MDU failed to show that the Commission was equitably estopped from ordering a refund; and (5) the Commission’s action was not arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or unlawful. View "Montana-Dakota Utils., Co. v. Wyo. Pub. Serv. Comm’n" on Justia Law

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Appellant owned and operated two mobile home parks. In 2000, Appellant changed its practice of including in the rent it charged tenants the cost of water it purchased from the City for the tenants' use. Instead, Appellant installed water meters on each trailer lot and began charging tenants for water usage separately from their rent. In 2008, the Public Service Commission (PSC) determined that Appellant was a public utility and therefore subject to regulation by the PSC. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) because Appellant metered a commodity utility to its tenants, it was a public utility under Wyoming law and therefore subject to PSC regulation; and (2) PSC's regulation of Appellant did not violate Appellant's equal protection rights. View "Gosar's Unlimited Inc. v. Wyo. Pub. Serv. Comm'n" on Justia Law

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The manager of the Wyoming Universal Service Fund (WUSF) filed confidential reports with the Wyoming Public Service Commission (PSC) containing his recommendations for the WUSF assessment level for fiscal years 2009 and 2010. Upon notice from the PSC that public hearings would be held to consider the manager's reports, Qwest asked for contested case hearings. The PSC denied Qwest's requests, concluding that WUSF proceedings are legislative in nature. The PSC subsequently issued orders establishing the WUSF assessment levels as recommended by the manager. The Office of Consumer Advocate and Qwest filed petitions for review of the PSC order. The district court held that the PSC erred in denying Qwest's requests for contested case hearings, reversed the administrative orders, and ordered portions of the 2009 data to be provided to Qwest but denied the request for 2010 data. Four notices of appeal from the district court's order were filed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Qwest was entitled to contested case hearings before the PSC. Remanded for contested case hearings. View "Pub. Serv. Comm'n of Wyo. v. Qwest Corp." on Justia Law

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In consolidated appeals, plaintiff challenged the district court's conclusions that its property was properly included in the South of Laramie Water and Sewer District ("district") and that the district lawfully issued certain general obligation bonds. Plaintiff also challenged the refusal of the Board of County Commissioners of Albany County ("board") to exclude plaintiff's property from the district. The court affirmed Docket No. S-10-0199 and held that plaintiff was barred from challenging the inclusion of its property in the district and found that the district's proposed general obligation bond issue was not unlawful. In Docket No. S-10-0238, the court answered certified questions related to the Wyoming board of county commissioners' power to remove real property from a water and sewer district and the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claim under W.R.C.P. 12(b)(6). The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of Claim I under section 12(b)(6) where a motion to dismiss under section 12(b)(6) was an appropriate vehicle in which to raise the issue of the passage of a period of limitations; where Wyo. State. Ann 41-10-107(g) unambiguously forbade any "petition in error [or] other appeal" from a board's resolution establishing a water district, and unambiguously stated that the "organization of the district shall not be directly or collaterally questioned in any suit, action or proceeding" except "an action in the nature of a writ of quo warranto, commenced by the attorney general within thirty (30) days after the resolution..."; and where there was no inherent right to appeal from administrative action.