Justia Hawaii Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Utilities Law
by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approving a power purchase agreement (PPA) between Maui Electric Company, Limited (MECO) and Paeahu Solar LLC (Paeahu), holding that the PUC satisfied its public trust duties in this case.Under the PPA, MECO would purchase renewable energy from Paeahu's solar-plus-battery plant located within the Ulupalakua Ranch on Maui. Pono Power Coalition, a Maui community group, challenging the winning bidders' post-selection use of the same counsel to negotiate non-price PPA terms and asserting that the PUC failed to fulfill its public trust duties. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) this Court declines to inject antitrust standards into PPA approval proceedings; (2) the PUC appropriately evaluated the allegations of anticompetitive conduct; (3) the statutes governing the PUC's PPA review reflect the core public trust principles; and (4) the PUC properly approved the PPA. View "In re Maui Electric Company, Ltd." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court held that the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) did not abuse its discretion in deciding not to reopen a December 2014 order (Order No. 32600) upon allegations raised in 2019 that changed circumstances warranted relief from the order.The order at issue approved a purchase power agreement (PPA) in which Hawaiian Electric Company agreed to purchase wind energy generated by Na Pua Makani on a wind farm to be constructed on the island of O'ahu. Life of the Land (LOL) sought to reopen the order with reference to Hawai'i Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 60(b). The PUC denied LOL's motion for relief, concluding that it was without jurisdiction to consider the motion because LOL had not timely appealed the order under Haw. Rev. Stat. 269-15.5 and, alternatively, that the motion for relief was an untimely motion for rehearing or reconsideration. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the PUC did not abuse its discretion in declining to turn to HRCP Rule 60(b) to reopen Order No. 32600. View "In re Application of Hawaiian Electric Co." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court vacated two orders of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) denying a competitive bidding waiver to Hawai'i Electric Light Company, Inc. (HELCO) and denying Hu Honua's request for reconsideration of the first order, holding that both orders were the result of a misreading of the holding in Matter of Hawai'i Electric Light Co., 445 P.3d 673 (Haw. 2019) (HELCO I).In 2017, the PUC granted HELCO a waiver from competitive bidding for a proposed power purchase agreement HELCO wanted to enter into with Hu Honua (the amended PPA). The 2017 waiver was issued alongside the PUC's approval of the amended PPA. The Supreme Court vacated the decision and remanded for further proceedings. On remand, the PUC issued Order No. 37205 denying HELCO's request for a waiver under the belief that HELCO I nullified the 2017 waiver. In order No. 37306, the PUC denied Hu Honua's request for reconsideration. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that HELCO I did not vacate the 2017 waiver and, by extension, did not require the PUC to revisit the threshold waiver issue. View "In re Hawai'i Electric Light Co." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approving an application for a rate increase submitted by Hawai'i Gas (HG) and remanded this case to the PUC for further proceedings, holding that the PUC did not fulfill its statutory obligations under Haw. Rev. Stat. 269-6(b).Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) as "persons aggrieved" who participated in the contested case, Appellants had standing to appeal; (2) PUC failed to carry out its mandate under section 269-6(b); (3) the PUC's limitations in sub-issue No. 1h violated Appellants' due process rights by improperly curtailing Appellants' substantive participation; and (4) the PUC did not abuse its discretion in adjudicating HG's rate case rather than proceeding through rule-making. View "In re Application of The Gas Company, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Pacific Lightnet, Inc. (PLNI) brought claims against Time Warner, asserting that it had been wrongfully billed by Time Warner for services that it had never received and that it was owed credits to its account from Time Warner based on assets PNLI had purchased, called Feature Group D claims. The circuit court entered judgment for Time Warner on all claims, notwithstanding a jury verdict in favor of PLNI on certain claims. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed the circuit court's dismissal of the Feature Group D claims based on the doctrine of primary jurisdiction and vacated the jury verdict on those same claims. PLNI appealed, arguing, inter alia, that the ICA erred in vacating the jury's verdict because it violated the filed-rate doctrine. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded, holding (1) the circuit court erred in invoking the primary jurisdiction doctrine to dismiss this case; and (2) inasmuch as the filed-rate doctrine applied, the circuit court erred in failing to instruct the jury that Appellant could not recover for any claims involving charges not filed within 120 days of receipt of billing in accordance with the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission and Federal Communications Commission filed tariffs. View "Pacific Lightnet, Inc. v. Time Warner Telecom, Inc." on Justia Law