Commonwealth Court Grants Preliminary Injunction Halting Zoning Limits in Act 13
HMS Legal Blog
Does a natural gas company that is not currently authorized to provide service in a territory, but with future plans to file for such authorization, have standing to contest another gas company’s application to provide service in that same territory? This issue was addressed in an Initial Decision by ALJ David A. Salapa, who answered it in the negative. Application of Leatherstocking Gas Co., L.L.C. for Approval To Supply Natural Gas Service to the Public, A-2011-2275595 (Initial Decision, issued March 20, 2012).
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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).
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.
Unfair Trade Practice Claims Involving Utility Billing: PUC has Primary but Not Exclusive Jurisdiction
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.
EPA has posted its bio diesel standards for 2012. As part of the EPA’s mandate to march the U.S. toward energy independence, the EPA establishes the minimum bio fuel requirements that manufacturers must meet each year. The new bio standards are out and they equate to an aggressive total renewable fuel volume of 9% of all fuels sold.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission held a workshop on Wednesday, January 4, 2012, to present a summary of Pennsylvania’s new Gas and Hazardous Liquids Pipelines Act (“Act 127”) and to solicit comments and suggestions from industry members and other interested parties about details of the implementation of the Act’s provisions. The PUC indicated that it will schedule another meeting between its staff and industry representatives in early-mid February to obtain further comments and input as it finalizes its plans for the implementation of the Act.
On December 15, 2011 the PUC issued two orders designed to make Pennsylvania’s retail electricity market fully competitive. Both orders are a product of the PUC’s ongoing Investigation of Pennsylvania’s Retail Electricity Market (“RMI”), Docket No. I-2011-2237952. The first order (“RMI Final Order”) addresses the desired features of soon-to-be-filed electric utility default service plans and programs that will be implemented as part of those plans. The second order (“RMI Work Plan Order”) provides granular detail on specific components, including consumer education, accelerating of switching time frames, customer referral programs, and retail opt-in auctions.
Commonwealth Court OKs Nonmonetary Contract Claims Against Commonwealth in Casino Central Computer RFP Dispute
In a case arising from the award of the contract for the Gaming Board/Department of Revenue’s Central Computer Control System that monitors transactions in slot machines in Pennsylvania’s casinos, the Commonwealth Court has ruled that a claim based on a contract that seeks relief that is nonmonetary in nature (i.e., for declaratory relief and specific performance) can proceed directly in the Commonwealth Court. Scientific Games International, Inc. v. Commonwealth, __ A. 3d __ (380 M.D. 2011, filed Nov. 30, 2011).
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (“PUC”) granted Laser Northeast Gathering Co.’s (“Laser”) petition to withdrawal its application to become a public utility.
By a 3-2 vote adopting a motion by PUC Vice Chairman John F. Coleman Jr., the PUC approved Laser’s petition to withdraw its application and denied the request of certain parties to rescind its prior Orders in the case. PUC Commissioner Pamela A. Witmer and Commissioner James H. Cawley dissented not as to granting withdrawal but as to the issue of whether the prior Orders should be rescinded.
The first product of the PUC’s Retail Markets Investigation is expected in the form of a Tentative Order to be voted on at the PUC’s October 13, 2011 Public Meeting, and will address the Electric Distribution Company (“EDC”) Default Service Plans for June 1, 2013 and beyond.
The Pennsylvania Insurance Department has delivered a clear message to all licensed insurance producers: you are expected to provide guidance to flood victims, even if they have no insurance to cover their losses.
The FCC has been considering comprehensive intercarrier compensation reform for more than a decade, and on more than one occasion has appeared to be on the brink of issuing a major decision. Now, once again, there are signs that the FCC may finally take action in this complex area which presents some of the most intractable issues in telecommunications. This post will provide some background on this issue and focus on one of the more controversial aspects of the debate – possible preemption by the FCC of what have traditionally been intrastate ratemaking decisions.
Few current social or political topics stir the emotions quite as much as health care reform. Whether you believe that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is a sign of imminent and apocalyptic American socialism or an important step towards ensuring that all Americans have access to basic health care, nothing can ruin a tranquil Sunday dinner at Grandma’s house quicker than prodding Uncle Charlie into a debate about whether Uncle Sam is taking over our health care system. But politics aside, if anyone was naïve enough to hope that the health care debate ended when President Obama signed the bill into law in March, 2010, they are facing the reality that 18 months later there still seem to be many more questions than answers when it comes to the future of health insurance in America. And in Pennsylvania, while state government officials are busy deciphering how their citizens can get the most out of the PPACA, they are also distracted with having to deal with another potentially critical health care problem in the western half of the state - where an impasse between the area’s largest hospital system and the dominant health insurance company threatens access to doctors and hospitals for millions of patients who already have good insurance.