Justia Vermont Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Energy, Oil & Gas Law
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Allco Renewable Energy Limited appealed a Public Utility Commission (PUC) order which found that Allco had begun “site preparation for . . . an electric generation facility” without first obtaining a certificate of public good (CPG) in violation of 30 V.S.A. 248(a)(2)(A). The PUC enjoined Allco from any further site preparation unless certain criteria were satisfied and explained that, following another hearing, it would determine a civil penalty for Allco’s violation under 30 V.S.A. 30(a). On appeal, Allco challenged the PUC’s injunction order. Because there was not yet a final appealable order, the Vermont Supreme Court dismissed this appeal for lack of jurisdiction. View "In re Allco Renewable Energy Limited et al." on Justia Law

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Portland Street Solar LLC appealed a Public Utility Commission order denying Portland Street’s petition for a certificate of public good (CPG) to install and operate a 500-kW solar group net-metering system adjacent to a previously permitted solar array owned by Golden Solar, LLC. Interpreting the definition of “plant” set forth in 30 V.S.A. 8002(18), the Commission determined that the proposed Portland Street project would be part of a single plant along with the already-approved adjacent Golden Solar project and thus would exceed the 500-kw energy-generating-capacity limit applicable in the net-metering program. On appeal, Portland Street argued the Commission’s decision was inconsistent with the Vermont Supreme Court’s controlling precedent, as well as prior Commission decisions involving similar cases, and that the Commission exceeded its statutory authority by expansively construing the component parts of section 8002(18) that defined the characteristics of a single plant. Applying the appropriate deferential standard of review, the Supreme Court concluded the Commission’s self-described expanded and refined interpretation of what constituted a single plant under section 8002(18) was not arbitrary, unreasonable, or discriminatory and did not amount to compelling error that would require the Court to intervene in matters the Legislature has delegated to the Commission’s expertise. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the Commission’s decision denying Portland Street’s petition for a CPG to install and operate its proposed facility under the net-metering program. View "In re Petition of Portland Street Solar LLC" on Justia Law

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Allco Renewable Energy Limited & PLH LLC (collectively Allco), appealed the Vermont Public Utility Commission’s (PUC) September 2020 decision awarding two provider-block contracts to Green Mountain Power (GMP). Allco argued the PUC erred in determining the proposals submitted by GMP on behalf of an undisclosed independent developer were proper provider-block projects under 30 V.S.A. 8005a(c)(1)(B). The Vermont Supreme Court deferred to the PUC’s conclusion that the GMP proposals qualified as provider-block projects because Allco did not demonstrate the PUC’s interpretation of section 8005a(c)(1)(B) was either unreasonable or has compelling indications of error. View "In re Investigation to Review the Avoided Costs that Serve as Prices for the Standard-Offer Program in 2020 (Allco Renewable Energy Limited & PLH LLC)" on Justia Law

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Allco Renewable Energy Limited and PLH, LLC (collectively, Allco), challenged the Vermont Public Utility Commission’s (PUC) decision establishing the avoided-cost price caps and parameters of the 2020 standard-offer program. Specifically, Allco argued the PUC failed to make a required annual determination that its pricing mechanism complied with federal law, and that its 2020 standard-offer request for proposal (RFP) was invalid because the market-based pricing mechanism used in the standard-offer program violates federal law. On the PUC's record, the Vermont Supreme Court could not conclude the agency exceeded its discretion in arriving at its determinations regarding the 2020 standard-offer program. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "In re Investigation to Review the Avoided Costs that Serve as Prices for the Standard-Offer Program in 2020 (Allco Renewable Energy Limited & PLH LLC, Appellants)" on Justia Law

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Developer Chelsea Solar LLC sought a certificate of public good (CPG) to construct and operate a 2.0-megawatt (MW) solar electric generation facility off of Willow Road in Bennington, Vermont. The Public Utility Commission (PUC) denied developer’s petition, concluding that the Willow Road Facility and an adjoining facility proposed by developer, “Apple Hill Solar,” were a single 4.0-MW “plant” under the applicable definition of this term. In its decision, the PUC also considered and rejected arguments by intervenors Apple Hill Homeowners Association (AHHA) and Mt. Anthony Country Club (MACC) regarding various CPG factors. It concluded, among other things, that the project would not unduly interfere with the orderly development of the region under 30 V.S.A. section 248(b)(1) or have an undue adverse effect on aesthetics under section 248(b)(5). Developer appealed, challenging the PUC’s single-plant determination and its orders granting permissive intervention to AHHA and MACC. Intervenors cross-appealed, arguing the PUC erred in concluding the CPG factors were satisfied. The Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the PUC’s decision to deny the CPG based on its conclusion that the Willow Road and Apple Hill Facilities were a single plant. Given this conclusion, the Court did not reach the PUC’s evaluation of the CPG factors. The Court found no error in the PUC’s permissive-intervention decision. View "In re Petition of Chelsea Solar LLC" on Justia Law

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Therese and Timothy Holmes appealed a Vermont Public Utility Commission (PUC) decision granting Acorn Energy Solar 2 a certificate of public good (CPG) to build and operate a solar net-metering system. The Holmeses argued the PUC erred in concluding that: (1) Acorn’s application was complete under the PUC Rules; (2) several proposed changes constituted minor amendments; (3) the project would be located on a preferred site; (4) the project would comply with setback requirements; and (5) the project would not have an undue adverse effect on aesthetics, orderly development, wetlands, air pollution, greenhouse gases, and traffic. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the PUC's decision. View "In re Petition of Acorn Energy Solar 2, LLC (Therese & Timothy Holmes, Appellants)" on Justia Law

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Applicant Derby GLC Solar, LLC appealed a Public Utility Commission (PUC) decision denying its application for a certificate of public good (CPG) for a netmetered solar electric-generation facility. The PUC determined that applicant’s proposed project failed to satisfy 30 V.S.A. 248(b)(7) or (10). Applicant contended the PUC erred by not weighing the alleged economic benefits of the project against its adverse impacts, improperly considered evidence that should not have been admitted, misinterpreted the language of section 248, and treated applicant’s project differently than similarly situated projects. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "In re Application of Derby GLC Solar, LLC" on Justia 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