HMS Legal Blog

Supreme Court Orders Shorter Appellate Briefs

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has adopted rule changes that will result in shorter appellate briefs based on a “word count” approach of the type used in the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure.  The current volume limits are 70 pages for principal briefs and 25 pages for reply briefs. Under the new rules, the volume limits are a “word count” of 14,000 words for principal briefs (approximately 56 pages assuming 250 words per page) and 7,000 words for reply briefs (approximately 28 pages assuming 250 words per page).  A brief based on word count must be accompanied by certification of counsel that the brief complies with the limit.  The rule permits continued use of a page count to determine volume, but at the reduced page count levels of 30 pages for principal briefs and 15 pages for reply briefs.

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PUC ISSUES LONG AWAITED END-STATE ORDER

In an effort that is likely to fall short of the expectations of more than a few participants, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (“Commission”) officially shared its vision of the next steps for encouraging more competitive electricity markets in the Commonwealth.

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END STATE OR JUST THE “END”

In a long anticipated Tentative Order, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (“PUC”) finally revealed its vision for the “end state” of the retail electricity market in Pennsylvania.  The problem; many observers believe that the “cure” will kill the patient.

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Waiver and Enforcement of Regulations and Laws on Gasoline Distributors in the Wake of Sandy


Jersey and New York gasoline distributors continue to struggle to supply gas stations with diesel and gasoline product while federal and state legislatures both suspend and invoke regulations in order to assist and police gasoline distributors.

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Emergency relief waiver extends hours of service for truck transport drivers in Pennsylvania

Pursuant to the Proclamation of Disaster Emergency issued by Governor Corbett on October 26, 2012, the Secretary of Transportation, Barry J. Schoch, has signed a waiver extending the hours drivers may drive in a single shift from 11 to 14 hours.  This waiver applies to drivers carrying motor fuels, heating oil, or propane.

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First Energy Pays Price for Being First

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (“PUC”) caused quite a stir with its August 16, 2012 Order[1] that partially approved the jointly filed default service plans of the four First Energy electric utility affiliates serving in Pennsylvania.


[1] 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”) .

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PUC Denies PPL Migration Rider

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.

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PA PUC Requested by Statutory Advocates and Two NGDCs to Examine The Practice of Natural Gas Flexible Pricing or Negotiated Discount Rates

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.

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Sun sets on Solar Funding in Pennsylvania

Solar developers are finding that Pennsylvania funding sources for solar development are drying up with no plans of replenishing the pool.  The dearth of available solar grants could not come at a worse time.  On May 17, 2012, the U.S. Commerce Department announced stiff tariffs on Chinese-made solar panels raising costs on most future solar projects.

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PA PUC Clarifies Act 127 (Gas & Hazardous Liquids Pipelines Act)

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (“PUC”) has clarified Gas & Hazardous Liquids Pipelines Act for Class 1 Entities.

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Migration Riders for Electricity?

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission will now decide whether migration riders will be permitted for electricity customers, at the same time it is moving forward with its Retail Markets Investigation and its notable efforts to make the electricity markets more competitive.

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Shorter Briefs, Fewer Waiver Traps

Under two new proposals to amend Pennsylvania’s Rules of Appellate Procedure lawyers will be writing shorter briefs with less risk of waiver.

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Act 13’s Local Zoning Provisions Put On Hold

Commonwealth Court Grants Preliminary Injunction Halting Zoning Limits in Act 13

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Pennsylvania Gets the Cracker

Shell Oil Co. chooses Pennsylvania as home for its new natural gas processing facility.

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PUC Proposes Structure for Transitional Electricity Market

The PUC yesterday took a big first step toward creating an electricity market where most customers are served by competitive suppliers, and not by utilities, and unanimously voted to adopt recommendations for the next round of default service plans that will be filed by Pennsylvania’s electric utilities.

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Electricity Default Service Plans – The Next Generation

Two electric distribution companies, First Energy and PECO Energy Company, have filed their default service plans for service that will begin in 2013 – before the PUC has issued final guidance on what those plans should include.

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Timely Underground Storage Tank Indemnification Fund Claim Essential

Under Pennsylvania’s Storage Tank and Spill Prevention Act, owners, operators and installers of underground storage tanks who incur liability for cleanup of tank spills are entitled to reimbursement from the Underground Storage Tank  Indemnification Fund under certain circumstances, but only if they advise the Fund of a claim within 60 days “after the confirmation of a release.”

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New law expands Insurance Department authority to review health insurance rates

Small group plan health insurance rate increases of more than 10% must be filed and approved by the Pennsylvania Insurance Department under a new law signed by Governor Corbett in late December, 2011.  The expanded authority under Act 134 to review small group health plan rates in Pennsylvania comes in response to provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) that give the federal government the authority to disapprove such increases unless they are reviewed at the state level.

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PUC’s Electric Transmission Line Environmental Impact Inquiry “Little More Than a Speed Bump,” Says Court Dissenter

Pennsylvania’s electric utilities need consider potential adverse environmental impacts only for the route proposed and the considered alternate routes when siting high voltage transmission lines, and need not consider the environmental impact of other potential engineering solutions considered to address the underlying reliability issue, said a majority of the Commonwealth Court in affirming the PUC’s approval of PPL’s Lehigh Valley Region transmission upgrade.  Board of Supervisors of Springfield Township v. Pa.PUC, ___ A.3d ___ (Pa. Cmwlth. 2012) (No. 1624 C.D. 2009, filed January 13, 2012).

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Vehicle-Tank Meter Installation Deadline Extended

On January 3, 2012, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) issued a Special Bulletin extending the deadline for persons who own fuel oil delivery trucks to comply with section 3.31 of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Handbook 44.  Section 3.31 of NIST requires installation of special equipment on fuel oil delivery trucks so that proper testing can be performed for temperature adjusted product.  The deadline for the installation of this equipment has been extended from July 1, 2011 to October 1, 2012.

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