Articles Posted in Utilities Law

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Missouri American Water Company (MAWC) filed a petition to charge an infrastructure system replacement surcharge to its St. Louis County customers. The Public Service Commission (PSC) approved the petition. The Office of the Public Counsel appealed, arguing that the PSC lacked the authority to grant the petition because St. Louis County did not meet Mo. Rev. Stat. 393.1000-393.1006’s threshold population requirement at the time PSC approved the surcharge. The Office of the Public Counsel appealed. While the appeal was pending, MAWC and PSC reached an agreement establishing a new rate base that incorporated the costs of the MAWC projects for all then-existing surcharges. The Supreme Court dismissed this case as moot, holding (1) because the surcharge is no longer in effect and no effective relief may be granted, the issue as to whether MAWC can utilize the surcharge provisions of section 393.1003 is moot; and (2) the issues presented on appeal did not meet the requirements for an exception to the mootness doctrine. View "In re Petition of Missouri-American Water Company for Approval to Change its Infrastructure System Replacement Surcharge" on Justia Law

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Liberty Energy (Midstates) Corp. (Liberty), a public utility and a gas corporation, requested an increase to its Infrastructure System Replacement Surcharge (ISRS). After an evidentiary hearing, the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) approved the ISRS increase for Liberty. Accordingly, Liberty filed new ISRS tariffs in compliance with the PSC’s order, and the PSC approved the tariffs. The Office of Public Counsel, which is appointed by the director of the department of economic development and may represent the public interest in appeals from the PSC’s orders, appealed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the PSC failed to follow the plain language of its statutory mandates, and therefore, its order was unlawful. Remanded. View "Missouri Pub. Serv. Comm’n v. Office of Pub. Counsel" on Justia Law

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Atmos Energy Corporation, a local distributing company, contracted with independent gas marketing companies to purchase natural gas then delivered gas to customers through local pipelines. Following an audit, Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) staff indicated that Atmos had failed to comply with affiliate transaction rules by failing to document properly the fair market value and fully distributed cost of its transactions with its affiliate, Atmos Energy Marketing LLC (AEM). The staff then proposed a disallowance regarding Atmos' transactions with AEM. After an evidentiary hearing, the PSC found compliance with the affiliate transaction rules and rejected the proposed disallowances. The Office of Public Counsel (OPC) appealed, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the PSC erred in relying upon a presumption of prudence in rejecting staff and OPC's proposed disallowance regarding Atmos's transactions with AEM. Remanded.View "Office of Pub. Counsel v. Mo. Pub. Serv. Comm'n" on Justia Law

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After the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District (MSD) implemented a stormwater user charge without prior voter approval, William Zweig and other named plaintiffs, on behalf of themselves and a class of similarly situated ratepayers (Ratepayers), filed a complaint against MSD, claiming MSD's action violated Mo. Const. art. X, 22(a), which prohibits political subdivisions from levying any new or increased tax, license or fees without prior voter approval. The trial court (1) declared MSD's action unconstitutional, enjoined future collection of the charge, and ordered MSD to pay the Ratepayers' attorneys' fees and expenses; and (2) refused to order MSD to pay damages or refund charges already collected. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment in all respects, holding that the trial court did not err in (1) concluding that MSD levied the stormwater usage charge without prior voter approval in violation of section 22(a) and in awarding Ratepayers' attorneys' fees and expenses; and (2) refusing to enter a money judgment against MSD for the amounts already collected. View "Zweig v. Metro. St. Louis Sewer Dist." on Justia Law

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In 2008, St. Charles County and Laclede Gas Company entered into litigation disputing which party would bear the expense of relocating Laclede Gas' lines due to the County's road project. The circuit court entered summary judgment in favor of the County. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case. The County then filed a motion to voluntarily dismiss its litigation under Mo. R. Civ. P. 67.02. The circuit court overruled the County's motion, reasoning that a voluntary dismissal was improper under Rule 67.02 because the case was previously resolved by summary judgment. The County subsequently sought a writ of prohibition, claiming that the circuit court acted outside its jurisdiction by denying the County's motion to voluntarily dismiss its 2008 action against Laclede Gas. The Supreme Court quashed its preliminary writ, holding that the circuit court did not err in overruling the County's motion to dismiss, as the motion was not filed prior to the introduction of evidence at trial, and allowing the County to dismiss its case after it was reviewed by the Court would result in the County achieving an undue advantage in that it would circumnavigate the Court's prior opinion. View "State ex rel. St. Charles County v. Circuit Court" on Justia Law

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801 Skinker Boulevard Corporation (801), a corporation operating as a residential cooperative, sought a refund for sales taxes under Mo. Rev. Stat. 144.030.2, which indicates that utilities purchased for residential units for common areas and facilities shall be deemed to be for domestic use. The refund request concerned state sales tax charged and paid on electric and natural gas utilities purchased from 2006 through 2009. 801 filed for a refund of sales tax on its Union Electric (Ameren) and Laclede Gas Company (Laclede) bills. Ameren and Laclede also filed for refunds on behalf of 801. Ameren and Laclede's applications were denied. 801, Ameren, and Laclede (Taxpayers) subsequently filed a request for a refund of sales tax with the Administrative Hearing Commission, alleging that the utilities were purchased for domestic use by the individual owners and residents of 801 in accordance with section 144.030.2. The Commission denied the request. The Supreme Court reversed and ordered a full refund of the sales tax paid, holding that Taxpayers were entitled to the exemption and refund of their sales taxes pursuant to section 144.190.2, as 801's utility purchases were deemed by statute to be for "domestic use" and, thus, were exempt from sales tax. View "801 Skinker Boulevard Corp. v. Dir. of Revenue" on Justia Law

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Casey's Marketing Company was a convenience store engaged in the retail sale of gas, grocery items, nonfood items, and prepared foods. Aquila Foreign Qualifications Corporation was a utility that sold electricity to Casey's. Casey's filed a refund claim with the director of revenue for one month's tax paid for a portion of electricity Aquila sold to two Casey's locations. The director denied the claim. At Casey's request, Aquila challenged the director's final decision. The administrative hearing commission reversed, holding that Mo. Rev. Stat. 144.054.2, which provides a tax exemption for the "processing" of products," exempted Casey's food preparation operations. The Supreme Court reversed the commission, holding (1) the preparation of food for retail consumption is not "processing" within the meaning of section 144.054.2; and (2) therefore, Casey was not entitled to a sales and use tax exemption on electricity it purchased to power its food preparation operations. View "Aquila Foreign Qualifications Corp. v. Dir. of Revenue" on Justia Law