Justia Iowa Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Utilities Law
Juckette v. Iowa Utilities Bd.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court affirming the decision of the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) to grant MidAmerican Energy Company's petition for a franchise to build electric transmission lines in Madison County, some of which would run through a road right-of-way encumbering Appellant's land, holding that MidAmerican satisfied the statutory requirements for a franchise.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) MidAmerican satisfied the statutory requirement that new electric transmission lines must be necessary for a public use; (2) Iowa Code 306.46(1) provides utilities like MidAmerican with statutory authority to construct, operate, repair, or maintain their utility facilities with a public road right-of-way, including that right-of-way at issue in this case; and (3) as to the question of whether the construction of electric transmission lines within Appellant's right-of-way could result in a constitutional taking requiring compensation, this Court is evenly divided. View "Juckette v. Iowa Utilities Bd." on Justia Law
Environmental Law & Policy Center v. Iowa Utilities Bd.
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court denying Appellant's petition for judicial review of an order of the Iowa Utilities Board approving a regulated public utility's emissions plan and budget, holding that the Board erred in failing to consider certain intervenors' evidence in determining whether the "Emissions Plan and Budget" (EPB) met the statutory requirements.The utility submitted an EPB - its initial plan and budget and subsequent updates - requesting approval for operations and maintenance expenditures associated with emissions controls previously approved at four coal-fueled power plants. The Board granted several motions to intervene in the contested case proceeding, including three environmental parties. Prior to the contested case hearing, the Board approved the utility's EPB. The environmental parties petitioned for judicial review, and the district court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Board erred in rejecting the evidence brought by the intervening parties that the retirement of coal-fueled electric power generated facilities was more cost effective than the utility's plan and budget as outside the scope of Iowa Code 476.6 and thus not relevant. View "Environmental Law & Policy Center v. Iowa Utilities Bd." on Justia Law
Xenia Rural Water District v. City of Johnston
The Supreme Court held that Iowa Code 357A.2 grants cities the primary right to provide water services within two miles of of the city limits that were not already being served by a rural water district.The Supreme Court answered in the affirmative three questions certified by the federal court in this dispute between an Iowa municipality and a rural water district over the right to provide water service to disputed areas within two miles of the city limits. Specifically, the Court held (1) before amendments in 2014, a section 357A.2 rural district did not have a legal right to provide water service to portions of an area described in its county board of supervisors resolution when those portions were also within two miles of the limits of a municipality and when the municipality had not waived its rights to provide water service to the area; (2) section 357.2(4), as amended in 2014, does not exempt a rural water district from following notice-of-intent procedures when the area the district seeks to serve is within the district's boundaries; and (3) a section 504A nonprofit corporation created in 1977 did not have a legal right to provide water service anywhere within the state. View "Xenia Rural Water District v. City of Johnston" on Justia Law
Posted in: Utilities Law
SZ Enters., LLC v. Iowa Utils. Bd.
Eagle Point Solar proposed to enter into a long term financing agreement with the City of Dubuque that would provide the City with renewable energy. Under the agreement, Eagle Point would construct a solar energy system, and the City would purchase all of the electricity generated by the system. However, if Eagle Point was a “public utility” under Iowa Code 476.1 or an “electric utility” under Iowa Code 476.22 it would be prohibited from serving customers, such as the City, who were located within the exclusive service territory of Interstate Power and Light Company, another electric utility. The Iowa Public Utilities Board (IUB) concluded that Eagle Point would be a public utility under the proposed business arrangement. The district court reversed, concluding that Eagle Point’s proposed arrangement with the City did not make it an electric utility for purposes of the statutes. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Eagle Point was not a public utility under section 476.1 or section 476.22. View "SZ Enters., LLC v. Iowa Utils. Bd." on Justia Law
Hawkeye Land Co. v. Iowa Utils. Bd.
The Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) allowed an independent transmission company, ITC Midwest, to use the pay-and-go procedure of Iowa Code 476.27, the railroad-crossing statute, to run electrical power lines across a railroad at three locations, at the objection of the Hawkeye Land Company. Hawkeye Land owned the railroad-crossing easement but did not own or operate a railroad. An administrative law judge (ALJ) upheld the use of the pay-and-go procedure and denied compensation beyond the $750 standard per crossing fee the utility pays to the owner of the railroad right-of-way under the crossing statute. After concluding that it had interpretive authority over the crossing statute, the IUB issued a final order that reached the same conclusions as the ALJ. The district court affirmed on judicial review. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the IUB lacked interpretive authority over the terms of the crossing statute; and (2) the crossing statute applied to Hawkeye Land, but because ITC Midwest was not a public utility, it was not allowed to use the pay-and-go procedure. View "Hawkeye Land Co. v. Iowa Utils. Bd." on Justia Law
Nextera Energy Res., LLC v. Iowa Utils. Bd.
NextEra Energy Resources, LLC appealed the Iowa Utility Board's decision to grant advance ratemaking principles to MidAmerican Energy Company for a proposed wind generation facility. The district court affirmed the Board. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Board properly interpreted and applied Iowa Code 476.53; (2) substantial evidence supported the Board's findings; (3) Iowa Code 476.43 was not applicable to this ratemaking proceeding; and (4) section 476.53 as applied to a rate-regulated public utility that may compete in the wholesale energy market did not violate the Equal Protection clauses of the Iowa or U.S. Constitutions or the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. View "Nextera Energy Res., LLC v. Iowa Utils. Bd." on Justia Law
Kragnes v. City of Des Moines
This case was remanded to the district court for determination of whether a class should be certified and for determination of what, if any, part of the City's franchise fees for gas and electricity services are related to its administrative expenses in exercising its police power. The district court certified a class, found the franchise fees cannot exceed $1,575,194 per year for the electric utility and $1,574,046 for the gas utility, entered judgment in favor of the certified class against the City in the amount by which such fees exceeded that amount for an approximately ten-year period, and retained jurisdiction to determine the amount of money to be refunded to members of the class. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment as modified, concluding that certain amounts allocated or not allocated by the district court as proper components of the franchise fees should be modified. Remanded. View "Kragnes v. City of Des Moines" on Justia Law
Evercom Sys., Inc. v. Utils. Bd.
Evercom Systems provided telephone services to inmates in correctional facilities throughout the country. When Evercom billed a customer for collect calls he did not accept, the customer lodged a complaint to the Iowa Utility Board. The Board imposed a civil penalty for a "cramming" violation based on improper billing for collect telephone calls under Iowa Code 476.103 and Iowa Admin. Code r. 199-22.23. The district court reversed the agency's decision and imposition of the civil penalty, concluding that the Board misinterpreted the law and that no cram occurred. The court of appeals reversed the district court and reinstated the civil penalty. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals and affirmed the district court, holding that Evercom's actions did not constitute a cram under rule 199-22.23. Remanded for dismissal. View "Evercom Sys., Inc. v. Utils. Bd." on Justia Law