Justia Vermont Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Energy, Oil & Gas Law

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Neighbors of a proposed solar electric-generation facility challenged the Public Utility Commission's (PUC) issuance of a certificate of public good for the project. At the heart of their appeal was a challenge to the PUC’s conclusions that the Apple Hill project would not unduly interfere with the orderly development of the region and would not have an undue adverse effect on aesthetics. Both of these conclusions rested in substantial part on the PUC’s conclusions that the selectboard of the Town of Bennington took the position that the Apple Hill project complied with the applicable Town Plan, and that the 2010 Town Plan did not establish a clear, written standard. After review, the Vermont Supreme Court determined the evidence and the PUC’s findings did not support these conclusions, so it reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "In re Petition of Apple Hill Solar LLC" on Justia Law

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Applicant LK Holdings, LLC appealed the Public Utility Commission’s dismissal of its application for a certificate of public good for a proposed group net-metered photovoltaic electric power system. The Commission dismissed the petition as incomplete because applicant failed to provide notice to adjoining landowners that its application had been filed. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "In re Petition of LK Holdings, LLC" on Justia Law

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Appellant Renewable Energy Vermont (REV) asked the Vermont Supreme Court to review a Vermont Public Utility Commission order altering technology allocations in the standard-offer program for renewable energy projects. The Supreme Court determined what REV sought was an advisory opinion and therefore dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. View "In re Investigation into Programmatic Adjustments to the Standard-Offer Program (Renewable Energy Vermont, Appellant)" on Justia Law

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The issue this interlocutory appeal presented for the Vermont Supreme Court's review centered on whether 12 V.S.A. 462 created an exemption from the general six-year limitation for Vermont’s claims against a host of defendants for generalized injury to state waters as a whole due to groundwater contamination from gasoline additives. On the basis of the statute of limitations, the trial court dismissed the State’s claims insofar as they were predicated on generalized injury to state waters as a whole. On appeal, the State argued that section 462 exempted the State’s claims from the statute of limitations, and, alternatively, that the State’s claims arising under 10 V.S.A. 1390, a statute that established a state policy that the groundwater resources of the state are held in trust for the public, were not time barred because that statute became effective less than six years before the State filed its complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed. View "Vermont v. Atlantic Richfield Company, et al." on Justia Law

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The Town of Rutland and five adjoining landowners (“neighbors”) appealed the Vermont Public Service Board’s grant of a certificate of public good (“CPG”) to Rutland Renewable Energy, LLC (“RRE”) for construction of the Cold River Solar Project (“Project”), a 2.3 megawatt (Mw) solar photovoltaic electric generation facility. The Town and neighbors argued that the Board incorrectly held that the project will not unduly interfere with the orderly development of the region, would not have an undue adverse effect on aesthetics, and would not have an undue adverse impact on historic sites. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "In re Petition of Rutland Renewable Energy, LLC" on Justia Law

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An interlocutory appeal came before the Supreme Court, involving an issue of the “stream-of-commerce” doctrine of personal jurisdiction. Defendant Total Petrochemicals & Refining USA, Inc. (TPRI) challenged a superior court decision denying its motion to dismiss, for lack of personal jurisdiction, plaintiff State of Vermont’s complaint. The State alleged that TPRI, along with twenty-eight other defendants, contaminated the waters of the state by introducing into those waters a gas additive called methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE). Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Vermont v. Atlantic Richfield Company" on Justia Law

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New England Coalition, Inc. (NEC) filed a complaint to the Supreme Court seeking injunctive relief to enjoin Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee, LLC, and Entergy Nuclear Operations, Inc. (Entergy) from continuing to operate the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant. NEC alleged that Entergy was operating in violation of the Public Service Board’s final order approving the 2002 sale of the power plant to Entergy in Docket No. 6545. Finding no grounds to grant equitable relief, the Supreme Court dismissed NEC's complaint. View "In re Investigation into General Order No. 45" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff David Farrell, Trustee of the David Farrell Trust, appealed the grant of summary judgment for defendants Vermont Electric Power Company and Vermont Transco (together, VELCO), the holders of an easement for the construction and operation of electrical transmission lines on plaintiff's property. Plaintiff claimed that VELCO's easement was limited to the installation and operation of transmission lines necessary for the "Queen City Tap Project." He argued that VELCO exceeded the scope of its easement by installing a second transmission line on plaintiff's property in connection with an unrelated transmission-line project. The trial court held that the easement's express terms authorized VELCO to install transmission lines unrelated to the Queen City Tap Project, and that any increased impact on plaintiff's property caused by the new line did not amount to overburdening. "VELCO's easement, by its express terms, authorized its installation of the NRP line on the Property. Such use is also consistent with the easement's purpose - the transmission of electricity - and does not impose an additional burden on the Property requiring further compensation." Accordingly, the trial court's grant of summary judgment for VELCO was affirmed. View "Farrell v. Vermont Electric Power Co." on Justia Law

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In consolidated appeals, the Lowell Mountains Group, Inc. (LMG), and the Towns of Albany and Craftsbury, challenged several Public Service Board orders related to the construction of a wind-electric-generation facility and associated facilities on Lowell Mountain in Lowell, Vermont. In May 2010, petitioners Green Mountain Power Corporation (GMP), Vermont Electric Cooperative, Inc. (VEC), and Vermont Electric Power Company, Inc. and Vermont Transco LLC (VELCO) requested a certificate of public good (CPG) to construct a wind-electric-generation facility on Lowell Mountain. On May 31, 2011, following testimony, site visits, a public hearing, and hearings, the Board issued a final order granting a CPG subject to forty-five conditions. Appellants and several other parties moved for reconsideration. On July 12, 2011, the Board modified its final order in certain respects. The Towns and LMG appealed that final order with modifications. The parties also raised compliance issues with the final order that the Board ultimately overruled. Upon review of the Board's orders, the Supreme Court found no abuse of discretion, and deferred to the Board's decisions with regard to the final order. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the Board. View "In re Green Mountain Power Corp." on Justia Law

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Appellant John Madden appealed the Public Service Board's order granting a certificate of public good for Appellee Cross Pollination, Inc.'s planned construction of a solar energy farm in the Town of New Haven. Appellant claimed that the Board erred in applying 30 V.S.A. 248, which regulates the construction of electric generation facilities, and should not have issued the certificate because the solar farm will have an "undue adverse effect" on the aesthetics of the natural landscape as defined by 30 V.S.A. 248(b)(5). Appellant's issue on appeal was the Board's use of the "Quechee test" so named from the Supreme Court's decision in "In re Quechee Lakes Corp.," 580 A.2d 957 (1990)): that the Board erred in applying the Quechee test and should have concluded that under 30 V.S.A. 248(b)(5) the project would have an "undue adverse effect" on the aesthetics of the land, and as a result, no certificate of public good should have issued. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed the Board's findings in this case, and held that its decision was based on a correct reading of the law and is supported by its findings. View "In re Petition of Cross Pollination for a Certificate of Public Good" on Justia Law