Justia West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Utilities Law
City of Wheeling v. Public Service Comm’n of W. Va.
The Supreme Court vacated the order of the Public Service Commission resolving City of Benwood's complaint about the City of Wheeling's increase in the wholesale rate it charged to Benwood for wholesale sewage treatment services by forty-five percent, holding that the Commission exceeded its statutory authority.At issue was whether the Commission exceeded its authority under the plain and unambiguous language of W. Va. Code 24-2-1(b)(6) when it elected to start the jurisdictional, 120-day clock on the date the Commission argued it received sufficient information from Wheeling to resolve the dispute between the two cities. The Supreme Court vacated the order below, holding that the Commission exceeded its statutory authority by entering its final order more than 120 days after Benwood filed its complaint. View "City of Wheeling v. Public Service Comm'n of W. Va." on Justia Law
Equitrans, L.P. v. Public Service Comm’n of W. Va.
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Public Service Commission of West Virginia (PSC) ordering Equitrans, LC, a natural gas interstate pipeline company, to permit Hope Gas to connect a natural gas field tap on property owned by Ronald and Ashton Hall to Equitrans' "gathering line," holding that the PSC properly exercised jurisdiction in this matter.Seeking to divest itself of its gathering facilities Equitrans applied to the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) to abandon and sell its gathering facilities. FERC approved the application. When Equitrans denied Hope Gas's request to reestablish a service connection to the Halls' residence the Halls filed their complaint with the PSC. The PSC found that it had jurisdiction over the gathering facilities. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the PSC properly exercised jurisdiction over the gathering facility at issue. View "Equitrans, L.P. v. Public Service Comm'n of W. Va." on Justia Law
Mason County Public Service District v. Public Service Commission
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the West Virginia Public Service Commission that invalidated a $50 water disconnect fee charged by the Mason County Public Service District as an unreasonable practice, holding that the substantive result of the Commission's order was not improper.While investigating a complaint about residential water service that had been disconnected for nonpayment, staff at the Commission noticed that, when it computed arrearages, the District charged the water disconnect fee in addition to a $50 reconnect fee. Even though the original complaint made no mention of the fee, the Commission invalidated the disconnect fee as unreasonable. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commission acted within its authority in investigating and invalidating the disconnect fee; and (2) the substantive result of the Commission's order was consistent with its precedent and rules. View "Mason County Public Service District v. Public Service Commission" on Justia Law
Posted in: Utilities Law
City of Wheeling v. Public Service Commission
The Supreme Court affirmed the rulings of the Public Service Commission of West Virginia's (PSC) final order and its order denying the City of Wheeling's (Wheeling) petition for reconsideration and motion to stay, holding that the PSC had jurisdiction over the dispute when it issued its final order and that there was no error in the PSC's decision.After the City of Benwood brought an action challenging Wheeling's revised rate for sewer treatment services the PSC began an investigation. In its final order, the PSC recalculated the revised rate for Wheeling's sewer treatment services. Wheeling then filed a petition for reconsideration and a motion to stay, arguing that the PSC lacked subject matter jurisdiction when it issued the final order. The PSC denied Wheeling's petition and motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below. View "City of Wheeling v. Public Service Commission" on Justia Law
SRC Holdings, LLC v. Public Service Commission of W. Va.
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Public Service Commission of West Virginia (PSC) approving the application of one of Ambassador Limousine and Taxi Service (Ambassador) to transfer the common motor carrier certificate held by Classic Limousine Service, Inc. (Classic) to Ambassador, holding that there was no error.SRC Holdings, LLC, doing business as Williams Transport (Williams), appealed the PSC's order approving Ambassador's application to transfer its common motor carrier certificate to Ambassador, arguing that Classic's motor carrier certificate was nontransferable and that Ambassador's proposed use of the certificate would create new competition in the same territory that Williams serviced. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the PSC's reasoning in reaching its decision was legally sound and supported by the evidence. View "SRC Holdings, LLC v. Public Service Commission of W. Va." on Justia Law
Pool v. Greater Harrison County Public Service District
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) finding that it did not have statutory jurisdiction to consider Petitioner’s complaint challenging the Greater Harrison County Public Service District’s (the District) rate increase, holding that the District was not subject to the PSC’s jurisdiction with regard to ratemaking authority.In 2015, the Legislature adopted deregulation measures to limit the PSC’s jurisdiction and to exempt larger public service districts from the requirement that the district obtain approval from he PSC before changing the rates it charged for water or sewer service. After 2015, larger public service districts, statutory defined as having at least 4,500 customers, were only required to obtain approval of a rate change from a local elected body. After the Harrison County Commission approved a rate increase sought by the District, Petitioner, a District customer, brought suit arguing that the PSC had jurisdiction because the District did not have at least 4,500 customers. The PSC found that the District provided service to at least 4,500 customers, and thus, it did not have jurisdiction to examine the District’s rate increase. The Supreme Court affirmed. View "Pool v. Greater Harrison County Public Service District" on Justia Law
Jefferson County Citizens for Economic Preservation v. Public Service Commission of West Virginia
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Public Service Commission finding that the Jefferson County Public Service District may “indefinitely delay” a project to upgrade its sewer service, holding that the Commission did not exceed its authority or make factual findings that were not supported by adequate evidence and that the substantive result of the Commission’s order was not improper.The Supreme Court may reserve an order of the Commission when it exceeded its authority, it made factual findings that were not supported by adequate evidence, and the substantive result of the order was not proper. In affirming the Commission’s order, the Court held that, under the facts of this case, none of these three situations applied. View "Jefferson County Citizens for Economic Preservation v. Public Service Commission of West Virginia" on Justia Law
Holt v. W. Va. Am. Water Co.
Petitioner filed a complaint against West Virginia-American Water Company (Respondent) seeking damages and penalties for alleged violations of the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act (WVCCPA) regarding Respondent’s business policies and practices regarding leaks in Petitioner’s water line. The circuit court granted Respondent’s motion to dismiss, finding that Petitioner's claims arose from transactions encompassed by W. Va. Code 46A-1-105(a)(3) and thus were statutorily excluded from the WVCCPA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 46A-1-105(a)(3) applied to exclude Petitioner's WVCCPA claims, and therefore, the circuit court did not err in dismissing Petitioner's complaint. View "Holt v. W. Va. Am. Water Co." on Justia Law
Larry V. Faircloth Realty, Inc. v. Pub. Serv. Comm’n
In 2004, the Berkeley County Water District and Sewer District filed requests with the Public Service Commission (PSC) to charge capacity improvement fees (CIFs) due to rapid population growth in the county. The PSC approved the requested CIFs. Petitioners subsequently filed a declaratory judgment action in the circuit court, seeking relief from paying the CIFs. The circuit court found that the PSC lacked jurisdiction to establish the CIFs. However, the Supreme Court found Petitioners had failed to exhaust their administrative remedies before the PSC and reversed. Subsequently, the PSC discontinued the CIFs, finding that the Sewer District and Water District no longer satisfied the criteria for charging the CIFs. Thereafter, the PSC granted Petitioners' motion to deny the Water and Sewer Districts' petitions for reconsideration. Petitioners appealed to challenge errors they alleged were contained in the PSC's final order. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Petitioners were judicially estopped from challenging the errors. View "Larry V. Faircloth Realty, Inc. v. Pub. Serv. Comm'n" on Justia Law
State ex rel. Pub. Serv. Comm’n v. Lackawann Transp. Co.
Petitioners, the Public Service Commission of West Virginia and the Wetzel County Solid Waste Authority, sought to compel Respondents, Lackawanna Transport Company and Solid Waste Services, Inc., to comply with an order entered by the Public Service Commission requiring them to produce certain information and financial records pertinent to an ongoing investigation concerning the Wetzel County Landfill. The Supreme Court granted the requested writ of mandamus, holding (1) a writ of mandamus is appropriate in this case, as Respondents were legally required to produce the requested information; and (2) while arguably there was another remedy available in this instance through the circuit court, that remedy was not adequate given the unique circumstances given here. View "State ex rel. Pub. Serv. Comm'n v. Lackawann Transp. Co." on Justia Law