Justia Minnesota Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Energy, Oil & Gas Law
In the Matter of the Denial of Contested Case Hearing Requests & Issuance of National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System
The Supreme Court held that an action taken by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) in issuing a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System/State Disposal System permit was arbitrary and capricious and that the permit did not comply with a Minnesota rule addressing wastewater discharges to groundwater, Minn. R. 7060.0600, subp. 2.At issue was the MPCA's issuance of the permit for a Poly Met Mining, Inc. project. The court of appeals reversed in part, concluding that the MPCA failed properly to consider whether the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) applied to future discharges from Poly Met's facility to groundwater. The Supreme Court remanded the cause, holding (1) remand was required because there were suggestions that the MPCA did not properly consider whether the permit complies with the CWA and that the MPCA did not genuinely engage in reasoned decision-making; (2) remand was required for consideration of whether a variance was available to allow the planned discharge to the unsaturated zone within the containment system; and (3) the prohibition on injecting polluted water directly to the groundwater saturated zone for long-term storage did not apply in this case. View "In the Matter of the Denial of Contested Case Hearing Requests & Issuance of National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System" on Justia Law
In re Issuance of Air Emissions Permit No. 13700345-101 for PolyMet Mining Inc.
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals dismissing an administrative appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction in the underlying case involving an air emissions permit issued by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for the NorthMet mining project in northern Minnesota, holding that the service and other steps taken by Appellants were effective to invoke appellate jurisdiction and that the appeal was timely-filed under the thirty-day service deadline set forth in Minn. Stat. 14.63.After the Agency issued the permit at issue to Poly Met Mining, Inc., Appellants filed a certiorari appeal. The court of appeals granted PolyMet's motion to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction on the ground that Appellants had failed to serve PolyMet's counsel within thirty days of receiving the decision. At issue before Supreme Court was whether the service requirements in the judicial review provisions of the Minnesota Administrative Procedure Act, Minn. Stat. 14.63-.69, require petitioners to serve appeal papers on a represented party's counsel. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, when initiating judicial review where the parties were otherwise served directly, the Act's judicial review provisions do not require service on a represented party's attorney. View "In re Issuance of Air Emissions Permit No. 13700345-101 for PolyMet Mining Inc." on Justia Law
Commissioner of Revenue v. CenterPoint Energy Resources Corp.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Minnesota Tax Court reducing the Commissioner of Revenue's valuations of CenterPoint Energy Minnegasco's natural gas distribution pipeline system for January 2, 2018 through January 2, 2019, holding that the Commissioner was not entitled to relief.The tax court reduced the Commissioner's valuations and ordered the Commissioner to recalculate Minnegasco's tax liability. The Commissioner appealed, challenging the tax court's income-equalization and cost approaches. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the tax court (1) did not err in the way that it used the Commissioner's initial assessments when evaluating the totality of the evidence and making its independent evaluations; (2) did not abuse its discretion in considering the conflicting expert opinions; and (3) did not clearly err in finding external obsolescence. View "Commissioner of Revenue v. CenterPoint Energy Resources Corp." on Justia Law
In re Application of Otter Tail Power Company for Authority to Increase Rates for Electric Service in Minnesota
The Supreme Court held that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) lacks the authority to require Otter Tail Power Company to amend an existing transmission cost-recovery rider (TCRR) approved under Minn. Stat. 216B.16, subd. 7b(b) to include the costs and revenues associated with two high-voltage interstate transmission lines, known as the Big Stone Access Transmission Lines (Big Stone Lines).In 2013, the MPUC approved Otter Tail's request for a TCRR for three transmission projects. In 2016, Otter Tail filed this general rate case with the MPUC seeking an annual-rate increase on its retail electricity sales to help offset company-wide investment costs and asserted that the costs and revenues associated with the Big Stone Lines should not be considered when setting the retail rates. The MPUC directed Otter Tail to amend the TCRR approved in 2013 to include the costs and revenues of the Big Stone Lines. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the MPUC does not have statutory authority to compel Otter Tail to include the Big Stone Lines in the TCRR. View "In re Application of Otter Tail Power Company for Authority to Increase Rates for Electric Service in Minnesota" on Justia Law
Minnesota Sands, LLC v. County of Winona, Minnesota
In this challenge to a zoning ordinance prohibiting industrial mineral operations within Winona County the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the order of the district granting summary judgment to the County on all of Minnesota Sands, LLC's claims, holding that the ordinance was constitutional.Minnesota Sands, a mining company, sought to mine and process silica sand in the County. Minnesota Sands sued the County requesting declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief. The district court granted summary judgment to the County. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the ordinance did not violate the dormant Commerce Clause or work an unconstitutional taking of Minnesota Sands' property interests. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Minnesota Sands had standing to bring this case; (2) the County's ordinance did not violate the dormant Commerce Clause on its face, in purpose or in effect; and (3) Minnesota Sands' takings claims failed because the property interests it claimed were taken by the County had not yet accrued. View "Minnesota Sands, LLC v. County of Winona, Minnesota" on Justia Law
Minnesota Energy Resources Corp. v. Commissioner of Revenue
In this case regarding the determination of the tax court valuing Minnesota Energy Resources Corporation’s (MERC) natural gas pipeline distribution system for the years 2008 through 2012, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the tax court on remand, holding that the tax court followed the Court’s instructions on remand and properly applied the Court’s clarified standard to MERC’s claim of external obsolescence. On remand, the tax court found that MERC failed to demonstrate that external obsolescence affected the value of its property. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the tax court correctly evaluated whether MERC’s evidence of external obsolescence was credible, reliable, and relevant; and (2) the tax court’s decision was justified by the evidence and in conformity with law. View "Minnesota Energy Resources Corp. v. Commissioner of Revenue" on Justia Law
Minnesota Energy Resources Corp. v. Commissioner of Revenue
Minnesota Energy Resources Corporation (MERC) challenged the Commissioner of Revenue’s 2008 to 2012 valuation of its natural-gas pipeline distribution system. After a trial, the Commissioner determined (1) for each of the years from 2008 to 2011, the market value of MERC’s property was lower than the Commissioner’s valuation; and (2) for 2012, the Commissioner undervalued MERC’s pipeline distribution system. Both MERC and the Commissioner appealed. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the tax court’s explanation of the beta factors it used to calculate MERC’s cost of equity was insufficient; and (2) the tax court evaluated MERC’s evidence of external obsolescence under the wrong legal standard. Remanded. View "Minnesota Energy Resources Corp. v. Commissioner of Revenue" on Justia Law
City of Cohasset v. Minnesota Power, an Operating Division of Allete, Inc.
After respondent was granted a permit by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (âMPUCâ) for routing and construction of a pipeline to deliver natural gas to an energy center within appellantâs city limits, appellant commenced an action for declaratory and injunctive relief seeking to require respondent to obtain a franchise from appellant to operate the pipeline. The district court dismissed, concluding that appellant did not have franchise authority over respondentâs pipeline, and the appeals court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding (1) a municipality is authorized by Minn. Stat. 301B.01 to impose a franchise on a public utility that has constructed and operates a gas pipeline located on public property within the municipality, regardless of whether the pipeline itself supplies gas to the public; (2) a municipality is authorized by Minn. Stat. 216B.36 to impose a franchise on a public utility that serves customers within the municipality or that uses public property within the municipality to serve customers elsewhere; and (3) the issuance of a permit by the MPUC for the construction of a gas pipeline does not preempt pursuant to Minn. Stat. 216G.02 a municipal ordinance requiring a franchise for the operation of the pipeline after construction is complete.