Justia U.S. Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Utilities Law
Hughes v. Talen Energy Mktg., LLC
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has exclusive jurisdiction over interstate wholesale electricity sales. States regulate retail sales. In states that have deregulated their energy markets, “load serving entities” (LSEs) purchase wholesale electricity from generators for delivery to retail consumers. PJM, which manages segments of the electricity grid, operates an auction to identify need for new generation and to accommodate long-term contracts. PJM predicts demand for three years and assigns a share of that demand to each participating LSE. Producers enter bids. PJM accepts bids until it purchases enough capacity to satisfy anticipated demand. All accepted sellers receive the highest accepted rate (clearing price). LSEs then must purchase, from PJM, electricity to satisfy their assigned share. FERC regulates the auction to ensure a reasonable clearing price. Concerned that the auction was not encouraging development of sufficient new in-state generation, Maryland enacted a program, selected CPV to construct a new power plant and required LSEs to enter into 20-year contracts with CPV. Under the contract, CPV sells its capacity to PJM through the auction, but—through mandated payments from LSEs—receives the state price rather than the clearing price. The district court issued a declaratory judgment holding that Maryland’s program improperly sets CPV's rate for interstate wholesale capacity sales to PJM. The Fourth Circuit and Supreme Court affirmed. Maryland’s program is preempted because it disregards the rate FERC requires under its exclusive authority over interstate wholesale sales, 16 U.S.C. 824(b)(1). FERC has approved PJM’s capacity auction as the sole rate-setting mechanism for those sales. Maryland attempts to guarantee CPV a rate distinct from the clearing price, contrary to the Federal Power Act’s division of authority; states may not seek to achieve ends, however legitimate, through regulatory means that intrude on FERC’s authority. View "Hughes v. Talen Energy Mktg., LLC" on Justia Law
Fed. Energy Regulatory Comm’n v. Elec. Power Supply Ass’n
The Federal Power Act authorizes the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to regulate “sale of electric energy at wholesale in interstate commerce,” including wholesale electricity rates and any rule or practice “affecting” such rates, 16 U.S.C. 824(b), 824d(a), 824e(a), leaving the states to regulate retail sales. To ensure “just and reasonable” wholesale rates. FERC encourages nonprofit entities to manage regions of the nationwide grid. These entities hold auctions to set wholesale prices, matching bids from generators with orders from utilities and other wholesale buyers. Bids are accepted from lowest to highest until all requests are met. Rates rise dramatically during peak periods and the increased flow of electricity can overload the grid. Wholesalers devised demand response programs, paying consumers for commitments to reduce power use during peak periods. Offers from aggregators of multiple users or large individual consumers can be bid into the wholesale auctions. When it costs less to pay consumers to refrain from use than it does to pay producers to supply more, demand response can lower prices and increase grid reliability. FERC required wholesalers to receive demand response bids from aggregators of electricity consumers, except when the state regulatory authority bars participation. FERC further issued Order 745, requiring market operators to pay the same price for conserving energy as for producing it, so long as accepted bids actually save consumers money. The D.C. Circuit vacated the Rule as exceeding FERC’s authority. The Supreme Court reversed. FERC has authority to regulate wholesale market operators’ compensation of demand response bids. The practice directly affects wholesale rates; FERC has not regulated retail sales. Wholesale demand response is all about reducing wholesale rates as are the rules and practices that determine how those programs operate. Transactions occurring on the wholesale market unavoidably have natural consequences at the retail level. View "Fed. Energy Regulatory Comm'n v. Elec. Power Supply Ass'n" on Justia Law
American Elec. Power Co., et al. v. Connecticut, et al.
Plaintiffs, several states, the city of New York, and three private land trusts, sued defendants, four private power companies and the federal Tennessee Valley Authority, alleging that defendants' emissions substantially and unreasonably interfered with public rights in violation of the federal common law of interstate nuisance, or in the alternative, of state tort law. Plaintiffs sought a decree setting carbon-dioxide emissions for each defendant at an initial cap to be further reduced annually. At issue was whether plaintiffs could maintain federal common law public nuisance claims against carbon-dioxide emitters. As a preliminary matter, the Court affirmed, by an equally divided Court, the Second Circuit's exercise of jurisdiction and proceeded to the merits. The Court held that the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. 7401, and the Environmental Protection Act ("Act"), 42 U.S.C. 7411, action the Act authorized displaced any federal common-law right to seek abatement of carbon-dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel fired power plants. The Court also held that the availability vel non of a state lawsuit depended, inter alia, on the preemptive effect of the federal Act. Because none of the parties have briefed preemption or otherwise addressed the availability of a claim under state nuisance law, the matter was left for consideration on remand. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "American Elec. Power Co., et al. v. Connecticut, et al." on Justia Law