Court dismisses class action against Cleveland Public Power

The Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas dismissed a class action lawsuit against Cleveland Public Power (CPP), holding that certain utility charges totaling more than $188 million were not unlawful. The crux of the lawsuit was Environmental and Ecological Adjustment (EEA) charges that CCP charged customers in addition to base rates. Unlike base rates, EEA charges do not need approval from city council. The EEA charges were collected by CPP from 1984 into 2013. And although CPP stopped assessing these fees in 2013, it began charging customers again in 2017. The plaintiffs claimed that CPP was not allowed to charge the EEA charges under the terms of CPP’s electric service contract with its customers, because these charges did not relate to compliance with environmental laws or regulations.             

To examine the plaintiffs’ breach of contract claim, the court analyzed the City of Cleveland’s ordinances, which incorporate the terms of the electric service contract. After analyzing the ordinances establishing the EEA, the court rejected the plaintiffs’ arguments. The court found that the language of the ordinances (and, thus, the electric service contract) did not limit the scope of EEA charges to costs related to environmental laws or regulations.                                                        

The court’s decision is likely to be appealed, but it closes the first chapter in a contentious legal battle regarding CPP’s utility charges. The decision is also noteworthy due to the court’s in-depth analysis of the applicable standard of review for Ohio courts that are asked to consider the lawfulness of municipal utilities’ rates.

For more, read the full decision.

Energy Efficiency, Miscellaneous, State Updates

Bricker partners with Ohio advancement groups to host economic development trainings

Attorneys within Bricker & Eckler's economic development practice have partnered with APEG, JobsOhio and OEDA to design and host EDNow!, an upcoming economic development training program. EDNow! empowers elected and appointed community leaders, especially those within Southern and Eastern Ohio, to guide their local communities’ futures with cutting-edge economic development strategies. Buckeye Hills Regional Council, OVRDC and OMEGA have also assisted with this initiative.

The program will be offered in various Ohio locations on September 26 and October 10. For more information, including the schedule, location details and ticket information, visit the EDNow! event page.

Economic Development, Miscellaneous, Project Finance

AEP funding OSU research on cyber-resilient power grids

Columbus-based American Electric Power has provided a $250,000 grant for Ohio State University (OSU) to research cyber-resilient power grids, Columbus Business First reports. OSU’s Electric Power Grid Research Group will conduct the research into making “electric power distribution networks safer from cyber attacks,” according to the article. Julie Sloat, president and COO of AEP Ohio, said in a statement, “[i]ncreased connectivity creates new entry points for potential attackers and poses new challenges for grid security, so we are thrilled we are able to provide this funding.” David Williams, dean of the OSU College of Engineering, said in the statement, “[e]lectric power generation and distribution are areas of great interest to all of us, not just now, but into the future. . . . The security of our electric power system goes right to the heart of our civilization.” For more, read the full article.

Miscellaneous

Couple ties the knot at One Energy wind campus in Findlay, Ohio

On June 2, 2018, One Energy technical manager Erin Kashawlic and her soon-to-be husband held their marriage ceremony at the One Energy North Findlay Wind Campus that she helped develop and construct. According to North American Wind Power, the wedding offered turbine tours and yard games for guests, as well as oversized pinwheel decorations. Kashawlic and groom Chris Roekle chose the site so their guests could see their home city and wind energy from a different angle. “Erin and Chris exchanging vows just a couple hundred feet from the spinning turbines, surrounded by family and friends, was a perfect backdrop to a beautiful day,” said Angela DeBoskey, head of storytelling for One Energy.

Miscellaneous, Renewable Energy

U.S. Energy storage surpasses 1,000 MWh deployed, no longer “nascent”

After reaching a significant milestone in 2017, with more than 1,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) now deployed, the U.S. energy storage market is poised for a breakout in 2018, nawindpower.com reports. The U.S. Energy Storage Monitor 2017 Year-in-Review, released by the Energy Storage Association (ESA) and GTM Research, forecasts the deployment of an additional 1,000 MWh this year. Ravi Manghani, GTM Research’s director of energy storage, said, “[w]e’re going to have to strike the word ‘nascent’ from our vocabularies when describing the U.S. energy storage market.” Manghani cited falling costs and favorable policies as “core drivers of the market’s breakout in 2018.” A recent ruling by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) intended to remove barriers to market entry that new technologies such as energy storage faced under previous market rules (see our March 8, 2018 blog post). For more, read the full article

Miscellaneous

PUCO Nominating Council recommends candidates for commissioner seat

The 12-member Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Nominating Council recently recommended four individuals as candidates to fill the position of commissioner for a five-year term beginning April 11, 2018, The Sunbury News reports. The council recommended Ronald Russo, Stephen R. Serraino, M. Beth Trombold, and David W. Wade to Governor John R. Kasich for consideration. The PUCO is “the sole agency charged with regulating public utility service,” whose role is “to assure all residential, business and industrial consumers have access to adequate, safe and reliable utility services at fair prices while facilitating an environment that provides competitive choices,” the article reports. For more, read the full article.

Miscellaneous

New submetering bill doesn’t do enough to protect consumers, opponents say

A new bill that would limit how much submetering companies could charge consumers “was described as an improvement . . . but still a bad deal” in testimony before the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Committee in a recent hearing, The Columbus Dispatch reports. Senate Bill 157’s main sponsor, Kevin Bacon (R-Minerva Park) “wants to find a middle ground” that allows submeter companies to continue to exist, while reducing price markups and increasing disclosure to consumers. Jeff Jacobson, speaking on behalf of the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, said the measure “remains inadequate for protecting Ohioans”; he “pointed out what he considers flaws” in the bill, “including a customer-complaint process” that is too cumbersome. American Electric Power vice president of external affairs Tom Froehle said submetering companies “are not subject to the detailed rules imposed on utility companies” regarding delivery of service and other requirements. For more, read the full article.

Miscellaneous

PUCO chairman wants to “change the dialogue” on energy policy in Ohio

Asim Haque wants to “change the dialogue” about energy policy in Ohio; the chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) wants the commission to focus on electricity distribution, not generation, Columbus Business First reports. The PUCO “kickstarted” the effort to making that change “with a days-long conference called PowerForward (see our March 13, 2017 blog post),” according to the article. PowerForward “is a review of new tech and regulatory innovations with an eye toward how the changes will affect the power grid. . . . the wonkish embodiment of what Haque wants the PUCO to become — to focus on how power is delivered and used by customers.” Haque “said he has made a point of reaching out to lawmakers about energy issues.” He “sees his job as not trying to influence lawmakers,” but rather “to act as an adviser who helps them see both sides of issues and peel away the layers of lobbyist speak.” For more, read the full article.

Miscellaneous

Bricker wins ILTA “Innovative Project of the Year” for pipeline project involvement

Bricker & Eckler shone at the 2017 International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) national conference, winning the top prize in one category of the Distinguished Peer Awards, “Innovative Project of the Year – External/Client-Facing Category,” for the firm’s development of a unique technology solution on behalf of an energy client. Read more >>

Miscellaneous