Articles Posted in Utilities Law

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Dominion obtained necessary certificates for transmission lines to connect Dominion’s recently-approved Wise County power plant with an existing Russell County substation. In 2008, Dominion offered Hylton $19,100 to purchase a 7.88-acre easement. Hylton owned 354 acres across 20 contiguous and two non-contiguous tracts. He owned the surface and mineral rights of some tracts and only the mineral rights of others. Dominion included an appraisal, acknowledging that, according to Hylton, two major coal seams run through or near the property and that Hylton’s ability to sell or lease those mineral rights might be damaged. The appraisal did not consider mineral rights in determining fair market value. The parties signed an agreement granting Dominion the right to enter and construct the transmission line. Dominion filed its petition for condemnation, limited to the surface use of Hylton’s property and moved to prohibit Hylton from presenting evidence of “the separate value of coal,” damage to tracts not taken, and “damages for duplicative or inconsistent claims.” Hylton later moved to dismiss, arguing that Dominion’s pre-petition offer to purchase was not a bona fide offer, under Code 25.1-204, so that Dominion had failed to meet jurisdictional requirements for condemnation. The trial court dismissed and awarded Hylton attorneys’ fees. The Supreme Court of Virginia reversed the dismissal and the denial of Dominion’s motion in limine with regard to evidence related to the separate value of the coal and the potential surface mine. Because the issue of whether the unity of lands doctrine applies with respect to neighboring lands, not part of the taking, is a question of fact, denying the motion on that issue was appropriate. View "Va. Elec. & Power Co. v. Hylton" on Justia Law

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The State Corporation Commission issued to Virginia Electric and Power Company certificates of public convenience and necessity authorizing the construction of electric transmission facilities. BASF Corporation appealed, challenging the approval of the transmission line’s route across an environmental remediation site on its property along the James River. James City County, Save the James Alliance Trust, and James River Association (collectively, JCC) also appealed, challenging the approval of an overhead transmission line that will cross the James River and a switching station that will be located in James City County. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the Commission did not err in its construction or application of Va. Code 56-46.1’s requirements that the power company reasonably minimize adverse environmental impacts on the area concerned, and the Commission’s findings were not contrary to the evidence or without evidentiary support; and (2) the Commission erred in concluding that the switching station was a “transmission line” under Va. Code 56-46.1(F) and therefore not subject to local zoning ordinances. Remanded as to the JCC appellants. View "BASF Corp. v. State Corp. Comm’n" on Justia Law

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In 2012, Dominion Virginia Power filed an application with the State Corporation Commission seeking approval of a power station and transmission interconnection facilities associated with the generation plant. Dominion’s application also sought approval of a rate adjustment clause (RAC) to recover the costs of the power station and the associated transmission infrastructure. As part of the RAC, Dominion sought an enhancement on its general rate of return on common equity (ROE) for a certain period and proposed applying the enhanced ROE to the costs of the power station and associated transmission infrastructure. The Commission approved the power station and associated transmission infrastructure and allowed Dominion to recover an enhanced ROE for the transmission infrastructure. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission properly interpreted Va. Code 56-585.1(A)(6) to allow Dominion to recover an enhanced ROE for the transmission infrastructure associated with the power station and included in the subsection (A)(6) RAC for that facility. View "Attorney Gen. v. State Corp. Comm'n" on Justia Law

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These consolidated appeals arose from a final determination of the State Corporation Commission in a mandated biennial review of the rates, terms, and conditions for the provision of generation, distribution and transmission services of an electric utility. As pertinent here, commencing in 2011, the Virginia Electric Utility Regulation Act required the Commission to conduct biennial reviews of an electric utility's performance during the two successive twelve-month periods immediately prior to such reviews pursuant to Va. Code Ann. 56-585.1(A). At issue in this appeal was whether in the 2011 biennial review of the performance of Virginia Electric and Power Company in the 2009-2010 test period the Commission erred in determining that the utility's authorized fair rate of return on common equity of 10.9 percent would apply to the entire 2011-2012 test period in the next biennial review in 2013. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission's construction of Code 56-585.1 was based upon the proper application of legal principles, and the Commission did not abuse the discretion afforded to it under that statute. View "Va. Elec. & Power Co. v. State Corp. Comm'n" on Justia Law

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In this appeal, Appalachian Power Company (APCO) sought rate adjustment clause recovery of $33.3 million in environmental compliance costs that the State Corporation Commission denied. The Supreme Court reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded, holding (1) APCO was entitled to a rate adjustment clause for recovery of actual costs it directly incurred for environmental compliance in 2009 and 2010 but did not recover through its base rates, and the portion of the Commission's decision denying recovery of environmental compliance costs on the basis that those costs were connected with projects included in APCO's base rates which APCO had the opportunity to recover was reversed; and (2) the portion of the Commission's decision denying APCO recovery of environmental compliance costs alleged to be embedded in the capacity equalization charges APCO paid to its affiliates in 2009 and 2010 was affirmed. Remanded. View "Appalachian Power Co. v. State Corp. Comm'n" on Justia Law

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In these appeals the Supreme Court considered whether the Virginia Constitution provides for a cause of action by a landowner for inverse condemnation when the allegation of the complaint is that the landowner's property has been damaged by a diminution in value resulting from a public utility's construction and operation of an electrical transmission line for public use on nearby property. The trial court sustained the public utility's demurrers with prejudice, finding that because the complaints did not allege that the entire property had been rendered useless, and because the property had not lost all economic value, a damaging under the Constitution had not occurred. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court applied the wrong standard in reviewing the pleadings; but (2) under the proper standard, the complainants could not state a cause of action for declaratory relief for inverse condemnation when the sole damage alleged was a diminution in value arising from the public use of proximately located property, and therefore, the circuit court's judgment sustaining the demurrers was correct under the proper standard. View "Byler v. Va. Elec. & Power Co." on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether the court of appeals erred in (1) reversing a circuit court's judgment and applying the arbitrary and capricious standard of review to the State Water Control Board's decision to reissue a Virginia pollutant discharge elimination system permit to Virginia Electric and Power Company for its nuclear power station; and (2) reversing the circuit court and affirming the Board's determination that the discharge of heated water from the station into a waste heat treatment facility, classified as a "waste treatment facility" under state and federal regulations, did not require a separate discharge permit. For the reasons stated in Commonwealth v. Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Inc., the Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals. View "Blue Ridge Envtl. Defense League v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law