Most US taxpayers are by now conscious of the passage of President Trump’s signature tax legislation which dramatically reduces the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%. What many folks may not know is that the rates they pay to their local utility include recovery for the income tax expense of those utilities. This raises the question that some states, notably Kentucky and Oklahoma, have already begun to address: “How do regulators make sure that utility rates promptly reflect the substantial reduction in tax liability?” In Oklahoma, the Attorney General has called upon the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to address the tax savings issue which he estimates to total $100 million statewide. The Kentucky Public Service Commission already has ordered utilities to track their savings due to the tax change and to timely pass these savings on to customers. Montana and Michigan are taking similar actions.
HMS Legal Blog
On June 30, 2016, at its most recent public meeting, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (“Commission”) set a precedent important to Pennsylvania Uber (operating in Pennsylvania under its subsidiary Raiser-PA) and Lyft users alike by granting Yellow Cab Company of Pittsburgh, Inc. (“Yellow Cab”), a temporary extension of one year of operating authority to provide Transportation Network Service (“TNC”) in Pennsylvania. Although Yellow Cab may no longer be a household name like Uber and Lyft, the service that it provides is identical. In fact, Yellow Cab was the first Transportation Network Service (“TNC”) or app-based transportation provider that was granted temporary authority to operate in Pennsylvania. But under the Commission’s regulations, TNC authority is considered “experimental” and therefore is temporary and only valid for two years. Yellow Cab was granted authority to operate beginning in July 2014 and without the Commission’s June 30th Order, it would have been required to cease operating on July 1, 2016.
When Pennsylvania’s Independent Regulatory Review Commission (“IRRC”) voted unanimously at its June 30, 2016 meeting to disapprove for a second time the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission’s (“PUC”) recent efforts to modify its regulations implementing the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards(“AEPS”) Act, it was aware that its action would at most place a speed bump in the PUC’s path, but it disapproved the regulations anyway.
In an April 19, 2016 Opinion, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court affirmed the Public Utility Commission’s (PUC) grant of a certificate of public convenience (CPC) for experimental authority to operate as a common carrier to Raiser-PA, LLC (Raiser) in Pennsylvania, excluding Philadelphia. Raiser is a subsidiary of Uber Technologies, Inc. (Uber), which licenses the technology to Raiser that allows users to request a ride via smartphone app.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) recently issued a final rule making order concerning recovery of fuel costs by gas utilities at Docket No. L-2013-2346923. The full order can be found here: http://www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol46/46-4/110.html The Order is designed to simplify and streamline information and procedures for small gas utilities (gross intrastate operating revenues of $40 million or less) when submitting gas cost rate (GCR) filings with the PUC.
Almost one year to the day from its 2014 rate increase filing, Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania is back before the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission seeking an additional $46 million in revenue.
The PUC is not required to disclose a utility employee’s “tip letter” or other records relating to an investigation of the utility’s practices where the documents are not considered by the Commissioners when approving the resulting settlement.
Public Utility Commission (PUC) Commissioners gave Sunoco Pipeline a fighting chance at exemption from local zoning for outbuildings housing utility structures on the Mariner East Pipeline, finding prima facie evidence that Sunoco is a public utility and overruling the ALJs’ July 23, 2014 Initial Decision granting preliminary objections finding to the contrary.
Sunoco’s proposed Mariner East pipeline that would transport natural gas liquids (NGLs) from Pennsylvania’s rich Marcellus Shale production in Western Pennsylvania to processing plants in southeastern Pennsylvania, received a blow from Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission ALJs on July 23, 2014.
On Thursday, July 24, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission decided on a way forward that will allow App-based transportation networking services Uber and Lyft to continue operating in Pittsburgh while the Commission decides whether and how to grant them permanent authority to operate. The Commission granted Emergency Temporary Authority (“ETA”) for the entities to operate experimental transportation networks in Allegheny County and simultaneously granted Commission prosecutorial staff petitions ordering the entities to cease and desist operations. The net effect is that the Commission has determined on a preliminary basis that Uber and Lyft have been operating illegally (i.e., before their applications to provide transportation service were granted), but has also allowed them to continue operating (in compliance with strict ETA requirements) while their pending applications are being considered by PUC ALJs. Moreover, during their operation under ETA, the Commission directed that the entities maintain insurance higher than the minimum required by the relevant regulations and imposed eligibility restrictions on vehicles that offer transportation service.
In Robinson Township v. Commonwealth, 83 A.3d 901(Pa. 2013) the Pennsylvania Supreme Court invalidated key provisions of Act 13, the statute that removed from local zoning control the power to regulate oil and gas operations through restrictions on the placement and operation of oil and gas facilities. The Court remanded to the Commonwealth Court to consider whether other provisions of Act 13, including provisions that give the PUC power to review local zoning ordinances and withhold impact fees, remain viable.
On May 15, 2014, during the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s annual meeting, the PBA’s Administrative Law Section presented the James S. Bowman Award to Kevin J. McKeon of Hawke McKeon & Sniscak, LLP. The award honors a lawyer who is making a significant impact on the practice of administrative law and who is demonstrating leadership in mentoring administrative law practitioners. McKeon regularly represents clients before the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and also serves as lead counsel on significant cases before Pennsylvania’s appellate courts and the federal circuit courts of appeal. He serves on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Appellate Court Procedural Rules Committee, is a co-author of Pennsylvania Appellate Practice, and is a frequent lecturer on topics in administrative law and appellate procedure. The award is named for the late Honorable James S. Bowman, the first President Judge of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, whose comprehensive knowledge of administrative law, government law and appellate procedure was widely recognized and respected.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (“Commission”), which regulates moving companies, is reviewing comments to proposed rules that would make it easier for movers to obtain authority to commence operations in Pennsylvania. In its September 12, 2013 Proposed Rulemaking, the Commission recommended revisions to the evidentiary criteria applicable to moving company applicants. As reported in an earlier blog post on this site, the revisions recommended by the Commission would significantly ease entry barriers for new applicants, thereby encouraging more entrants and creating increased competition within Pennsylvania.
The Public Utility Commission (“PUC”) recently issued a Tentative Order in the matter of: The Use of Fixed Price Labels for Products With a Pass-Through Clause, Docket No. M-2013-2362961 (Tentative Order entered May 23, 2013), in which it requested interested parties to comment on what it views as an emerging problem: certain Electric Generation Suppliers (“EGS”) offering products labeled as “fixed price” when the products clearly are “variable price” products. Comments were filed June 24 and a PUC decision is expected soon.
The Pennsylvania Legislature recently amended the Second Class County Port Authority Act, 55 P.S. §§551-563.5, to, among other things, transfer jurisdiction over certain passenger transportation services occurring in Allegheny County from the Port Authority of Allegheny County (“Port Authority”) to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (“PUC”). Prior to the amendments, jurisdiction over certain types of passenger service in Allegheny County, such as scheduled route, paratransit and airport transfer, resided with the Port Authority.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (“PUC”) caused quite a stir with its August 16, 2012 Order that partially approved the jointly filed default service plans of the four First Energy electric utility affiliates serving in Pennsylvania.
 Joint Petition of Metropolitan Edison Company, Pennsylvania Electric Company, Pennsylvania Power Company and West Penn Power Company for Approval of their Default Service Programs, Docket Nos. P-2011-2273650 et al. (Order entered August 16, 2012)(“First Energy Order”) .
Providing a win to competitive suppliers, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (“PUC”) at its July 19 public meeting unanimously denied PPL’s request for a migration rider for default service customers.
Historically the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) has permitted natural gas distribution companies (NGDCs) to use flexible pricing or “flex” contract rates to attract or retain large customers who have other energy alternatives. The reasoning has been that “half a loaf is better than none,” and that such revenues, which cover and exceed marginal cost, contribute positively to overall cost of service. The result is a benefit to the large customer, the utility, and all customers generally. Moreover, in terms of retaining a customer, the argument in favor of the status quo is that other ratepayers benefit as they do not bear the revenue burden of stranded investment or a smaller revenue pot over which to apply costs. The NGDCs have generally been able to recover from other ratepayers the difference between the “flex” rate and what would have otherwise been charged under an ordinary general tariff rate.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (“PUC”) recently extended the Fuel Cost Recovery Surcharge for household goods carriers for an additional year, until April 18, 2013, to enable carriers to continue to recover increased diesel fuel costs.
Utility customers who challenge billing practices under the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (UTPCPL) must bring their challenge first to the Public Utility Commission (PUC), but may pursue their claim in civil court under the UTPCPL if the PUC concludes that the utility violated its tariff, the Commonwealth Court has ruled.