Justia Minnesota Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Utilities Law
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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

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the tax court concluding that the Commissioner of Revenue had overvalued Enbridge Energy, LP’s (EELP) pipeline system for 2013, 2014, and 2015 and issuing a new valuation for all three years, holding that, contrary to the tax court’s conclusion, the tax court is bound by Minnesota Rule 8100, an administrative rule regarding ad valorem taxes for utilities, when valuing a pipeline system and in allocating system unit value.Specifically at issue on appeal was whether the tax court erred in concluding that it is not bound by Rule 8100 when valuing a pipeline system. In reversing, the Supreme Court held that the tax court must follow Rule 8100 on how utilities, including pipelines, should be valued for tax purposes, and the tax court erred by concluding otherwise. View "Commissioner of Revenue v. Enbridge Energy, LP" on Justia Law

Posted in: Utilities Law
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After Appellants, several public utilities, sought to condemn a permanent easement across the property of Landowners for a high-voltage transmission line, Landowners elected to compel Appellants to purchase their entire parcel of land pursuant to the Buy-the-Farm statute, Minn. Stat. 216E.12(4). Appellants challenged Landowners’ election, arguing that it was not reasonable because the land subject to the election was much larger than the land needed for the easement and that the district court must consider several factors in addition to the statute’s requirements, including the size of the election. The district court approved the election, concluding that it was not required to analyze factors outside the provisions of the Buy-the-Farm statute. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the language of the statute forecloses Appellants’ assertion that the district court must engage in a totality-of-the-circumstances analysis of the reasonableness of Landowners’ election; (2) case law does not require an extra-statutory analysis; and (3) because Landowners’ election meets the statutory requires, the district court did not err in approving the compelled purchase of the parcel. View "Great River Energy v. Swedzinski" on Justia Law

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In 2009, Minnesota Power sought an increase in service rates of approximately 18.9 percent. As part of its submission to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, Minnesota Power also requested an interim rate increase of approximately $73.3 million. The Commission decided to set the interim rate increase at approximately $48.5 million after finding exigent circumstances existed. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the Commission did not err in finding exigent circumstances and did not abuse its discretion in setting interim rates. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that substantial evidence supported the Commission's decision to set Minnesota Power's interim rate increase at $48.5 million. View "In re Application of Minn. Power for Auth. to Increase Rates for Elec. Serv. in Minn." on Justia Law

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Appellants were landowners who elected to require a utility to condemn their property in fee after Respondents sought to acquire easements through their property by eminent domain in order to construct a high-voltage electric transmission line. After making this election, Appellants requested that Respondents provide them with minimum compensation and relocation assistance. Respondents moved the district court for an order clarifying whether such benefits are available to property owners making an election under Minn. Stat. 216E.12. The district court concluded that such benefits were available to Appellants, but the court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Appellants satisfied the statutory criteria for receiving minimum compensation and relocation assistance and were therefore entitled to such benefits. Remanded. View "N. States Power Co. v. Aleckson" on Justia Law

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County filed a claim for reimbursement with City, alleging that City had overcharged County for sewer and water services. Following consideration at a city council meeting, City denied County's claim. County subsequently sued City in district court. City moved for summary judgment, asserting that review of its decision was limited to certiorari review under Minn. Stat. 606 and that County's failure to bring a timely certiorari petition deprived the district court of subject matter jurisdiction. The district court denied the motion, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) City's decision to deny the refund was a quasi-judicial decision, and therefore, the exclusive method for reviewing City's decision was through a writ of certiorari under chapter 606; and (2) accordingly, the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear County's claim. View "County of Washington v. City of Oak Park Heights" on Justia Law