Justia Government Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Utilities Law
Bay Cnty., Fla. v. United States
Bay County Utilities provides water and sewer services. The County Commissioners establish rates. In 1966, the U.S. Air Force contracted with the County for water services at Tyndall Air Force Base. The parties entered into a sewer services contract in 1985. Both required the parties to renegotiate any new rates. In 1994, Federal Acquisition Regulations were amended to require standardized clauses in utility service contracts. When the government is contracting with an unregulated utility or the utility is subject to non-independent oversight, the parties must negotiate new rates. If the utility is overseen by an independent regulatory body, no further negotiations are required. In 2007 and 2009, Bay County increased water rates. The Air Force ignored those increases, but, in 2009 and 2010, unilaterally modified the water contract, with new rates, lower than the rates set by Bay County. In 2009 Bay County increased sewer rates. The Air Force refused to pay those higher rates, and instituted a unilateral contract modification to moderately increase sewer rates. Bay County submitted unsuccessful Contract Disputes Act claims to recover the unpaid balance of approximately $850,000. The Federal Circuit affirmed the Court of Federal Claims, holding that Bay County is an independent regulatory body and may revise rates in utility contracts without resorting to negotiations with the Air Force. View "Bay Cnty., Fla. v. United States" on Justia Law
Pusateri v. Peoples Gas Light & Coke Co.
Pusateri, a former employee of Peoples Gas Light and Coke Company (PG) filed a complaint under the False Claims Act, 740 ILCS 175/1, alleging that PG used falsified gas leak response records to justify a fraudulently inflated natural gas rate before the Illinois Commerce Commission. As a customer, the State of Illinois would have paid such fraudulently inflated rates,. The Cook County circuit court dismissed with prejudice, finding that as a matter of law, there was no causal connection between the allegedly false reports and the Commission-approved rates. The appellate court reversed, construing the complaint’s allegations liberally to find PG could have submitted the safety reports in support of a request for a rate increase, despite not being required to do so under the Administrative Code. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the dismissal, reasoning that the court lacked jurisdiction to order relief. The legislature did not intend the False Claims Act to apply to a Commission-set rate. The Commission has the duty to ensure regulated utilities obey the Public Utilities Act and other statutes, except where enforcement duties are “specifically vested in some other officer or tribunal.” View "Pusateri v. Peoples Gas Light & Coke Co." on Justia Law
People v. IL Dep’t of Labor
The Village of Bement, Piatt County, has a five-year contract, under which E.R.H. Enterprises operates and maintains the Village’s potable water facility and parts of its water delivery infrastructure. The Department of Labor issued a subpoena to E.R.H.’s attorney seeing employment records as part of an investigation under the Prevailing Wage Act, 820 ILCS 130/0.01. E.R.H. asserted that it was exempt from the Act as a public utility. The trial court ruled in favor of the Department and ordered E.R.H. to provide the requested documents, noting that the company was not regulated by the Illinois Commerce Commission. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed the appellate court, finding that E.R.H. is simply an outside contractor. View "People v. IL Dep't of Labor" on Justia Law
Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee v. Shumlin
Entergy, owner and operator of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station, filed suit against Vermont, raising claims challenging Vermont statutes governing Vermont Yankee (Acts 74, 160, and 189) and other claims related to Vermont's attempt to condition its grant of permission to operate Vermont Yankee on the execution of a power purchase agreement that favored Vermont retail consumers. The court affirmed the district court's grant of declaratory judgment that Act 74 and Act 160 were facially preempted by the Atomic Energy Act, 42 U.S.C. 2011-2281; reversed the district court's determination that Vermont's efforts to condition a new Certificate of Public Good for Vermont Yankee on the execution of a favorable power purchase agreement violated the dormant Commerce Clause; affirmed the district court's determination that Entergy's challenge under the Federal Power Act, 16 U.S.C. 791-828c, was unripe; affirmed the district court's grant of a permanent injunction enjoining defendants from enforcing sections 6522(c)(2) or 6522(c)(4) in title 10 of the Vermont Statutes, as enacted by Act 74, or sections 248(e)(2), 248(m), or 254 in title 30 of the Vermont Statutes, as enacted by Act 160; and vacated the district court's permanent injunction enjoining defendants from conditioning the issuance of a Certificate of Public Good on the execution of a below-wholesale-market power purchase agreement between Entergy and Vermont utilities or otherwise requiring Vermont Yankee to sell power to Vermont utilities at preferential rates.View "Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee v. Shumlin" on Justia Law
NE Energy Partners, LLC v. Mahar Reg’l Sch. Dist.
The Regional School District (Mahar), entered into a price watch agreement with Northeast Energy Partners, a licensed broker of energy services based in Connecticut, pursuant to which Northeast would negotiate and secure contracts for the provision of Mahar's electricity from energy suppliers. Mahar did not enter into the agreement to obtain Northeast's services pursuant to the competitive bidding procedures contained in G.L. c. 30B. When Mahar questioned the validity of the agreement, Northeast sought a declaratory judgment that the agreement is valid and enforceable because, under G.L. c. 30B, 1 (b ) (33), the agreement is exempt from the competitive solicitation and bidding procedures set forth in G.L. c. 30B. The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in favor of Northeast, holding that a contract between a school district and an energy broker for procurement of contracts for electricity is exempt from the requirements of G.L. [c.] 30B as a contract for 'energy or energy related services' pursuant to G.L. c. 30B, 1 (b ) (33). View "NE Energy Partners, LLC v. Mahar Reg'l Sch. Dist." on Justia Law
Tehama-Colusa Canal Auth. v. U.S. Dept. of Interior
The Canal Authority appealed the district court's decision to grant summary judgment in favor of Interior, Bureau, San Luis, and Wetlands, in a suit to establish priority water rights under Central Valley Project (CVP) water service contracts. The district court granted summary judgment for defendants, holding that all claims arising before February 11, 2004 were time-barred and that Canal Authority was not entitled to priority water allocation under the CVP contracts. The court affirmed the district court's decision on the alternative basis that California Water Code 11460 did not require the Bureau to provide CVP contractors priority water rights, because contracts between the Canal Authority and Bureau contained provisions that specifically address allocation of water during shortage periods. View "Tehama-Colusa Canal Auth. v. U.S. Dept. of Interior" on Justia Law
Illinois v. Chiplease, Inc.
The 1987 Public Utilities Act, 220 ILCS 5/8-403.1, was intended to encourage development of power plants that convert solid waste to electricity. Local electric utilities were required to enter into 10-year agreements to purchase power from such plants designated as “qualified” by the Illinois Commerce Commission, at a rate exceeding that established by federal law. The state compensated electric utilities with a tax credit. A qualified facility was obliged to reimburse the state for tax credits its customers had claimed after it had repaid all of its capital costs for development and implementation. Many qualified facilities failed before they repaid their capital costs, so that Illinois never got its tax credit money back. The Act was amended in 2006, to establish a moratorium on new Qualified Facilities, provide additional grounds for disqualifying facilities from the subsidy, and expand the conditions that trigger a facility’s liability to repay electric utilities’ tax credits. The district court held that the amendment cannot be applied retroactively. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The amendment does not clearly indicate that the new repayment conditions apply to monies received prior to the amendment and must be construed prospectively. View "Illinois v. Chiplease, Inc." on Justia Law
Casitas Mun. Water Dist. v. United States
Casitas Water District operates the Ventura River Project, which is owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and provides water to Ventura County, California, using dams, reservoirs, a canal, pump stations, and many miles of pipeline. In 1997, the National Marine Fisheries Service listed the West Coast steelhead trout as an endangered species and determined that the primary cause of its decline was loss of habitat due to water development, including impassable dams. Casitas faced liability if continued operation of the Project resulted in harm to the steelhead, 16 U.S.C. 1538(a)(1), 1540(a)–(b). In 2003, NMFS issued a biological opinion concerning operation of a fish ladder to relieve Casitas of liability. Casitas opened the Robles fish ladder, then filed suit, asserting that the biological opinion operating criteria breached its 1956 Contract with the government or amounted to uncompensated taking of Casitas’s property. The Claims Court dismissed, citing the sovereign acts doctrine. The Federal Circuit affirmed dismissal of the contract claim, but reversed dismissal of Casitas’s takings claim. The court again dismissed, holding that Casitas had failed to show that the operating criteria had thus far resulted in any reduction of water deliveries, so a takings claim was not yet ripe. The Federal Circuit affirmed. View "Casitas Mun. Water Dist. v. United States" on Justia Law
Consol. Edison Co. of NY, Inc. v. United States
In 1983, Congress enacted the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, 42 U.S.C. 10101-10270, authorizing the Department of Energy to enter into contracts with nuclear facilities for the disposal of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) and high-level radioactive waste (HLW). Congress mandated that, under the Standard Contract, DOE dispose of SNF and HLW beginning not later than January 31, 1998. In 1983, DOE entered into a Standard Contract with Consolidated Edison under which DOE agreed to accept SNF stored at the Indian Point facility. Following DOE’s breach, the Claims Court awarded two categories of damages: wet storage costs for continued operation of its Unit 1 spent fuel pool and regulatory fees paid to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The Federal Circuit reversed the awards, affirmed denial of damages for the cost of financing mitigation activities, but reversed denial of damages for indirect overhead costs associated with mitigation. The company had chosen to prioritize removal of Unit 2 SNF and Unit 1 material would not have been removed by the time at issue; the company did not establish that the breach caused an increase in fees to the NRC. View "Consol. Edison Co. of NY, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law
Ross Cnty. Water Co., Inc v. City of Chillicothe
Plaintiff is a non-profit, member-owned, water company serving rural areas of Ross County, Ohio. To finance its system, plaintiff borrowed nearly $10.6 million from the USDA. The disputed area of the county includes properties served by the city and properties served by plaintiff. Each has objected to the other's extension of new lines to the area. The district court granted plaintiff summary judgment, finding that the company is protected under the Agriculture Act, 7 U.S.C. 1926(b)(2), based on its obligations under the USDA contract, had a legal right to serve the area under a contract with the county, and did not have unclean hands. The Sixth Circuit affirmed.View "Ross Cnty. Water Co., Inc v. City of Chillicothe" on Justia Law