Articles Posted in Utilities Law

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Plaintiffs Rockwood Water People’s Utility District (Rockwood PUD), Northwest Natural Gas Company (NW Natural) and Portland General Electric Company (PGE) sought review of a Court of Appeals decision to uphold the validity of municipal enactments by respondent City of Gresham (the city) that increased the licensing fee that each utility was required to pay from five percent to seven percent of the utility’s gross revenues earned within the City. Plaintiffs sought a declaration that the enactments were void and unenforceable because they conflicted with the provisions of ORS 221.450. Alternatively, Rockwood PUD argued that it could not be taxed more than five percent by a city without explicit statutory authority. Trial court agreed with plaintiffs that the enactments violated ORS 221.450, and did not reach Rockwood PUD’s alternative argument. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the fee increase was not preempted by ORS 221.450 because the utilities were not operating “without a franchise” and that a city’s home-rule authority to impose taxes or fees on a utility is not affected by a utility’s municipal corporation status. The Supreme Court held that the license fee imposed by the City was a “privilege tax” and that the affected utilities were operating “without a franchise” within the meaning of ORS 221.450. The Court also held that the City was not preempted by ORS 221.450 from imposing the seven percent privilege tax on NW Natural and PGE, but that the City did not have express statutory authority to impose a tax in excess of five percent on Rockwood PUD under ORS 221.450. View "Northwest Natural Gas Co. v. City of Gresham" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was an order of the Public Utility Commission (PUC) that addressed Portland General Electric's (PGE) recovery of its capital investment in the Trojan nuclear generating facility after that facility was retired from service. To determine whether a legal error that the PUC had made in an earlier rate case had affected rates that the PUC had authorized PGE to charge, the PUC reexamined those earlier rates. In that reexamination, the PUC determined that PGE had been required to recover its capital investment over time, and that the rates therefore should have included interest to account for the time value of money. Despite the legal error, the rates that the PUC authorized for 1995 to 2000 were just and reasonable, but that to make the post-2000 rates just and reasonable, it was required to order a refund to the post-2000 ratepayers. In affirming the PUC order, the Court of Appeals concluded the PUC had not erred in making those three determinations. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed both the Court of Appeals and the PUC's order. View "Gearhart v. PUC" on Justia Law

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Portland General Electric Company (PGE) appealed a Court of Appeals decision that reversed and remanded a trial court order that denied Lexington Insurance Company's motion to set aside a default judgment entered in PGE's favor. Specifically, the issues were: (1) whether a default judgment awarding monetary relief violated ORCP 67C if the complaint did not specify amount of damages sought; and (2) if so, whether that omission rendered the judgment voidable or void. The Supreme Court held the judgment in question here did not violate ORCP 67C and that the judgment was not void. The case was remanded to the Court of Appeals for further proceedings. View "PGE v. Ebasco Services, Inc." on Justia Law