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ENGIE Gas & LNG LLC v. Department of Public Utilities (and another case) (Lawyers Weekly No. 10-128-16)

NOTICE:  All slip opinions and orders are subject to formal revision and are superseded by the advance sheets and bound volumes of the Official Reports.  If you find a typographical error or other formal error, please notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Judicial Court, John Adams Courthouse, 1 Pemberton Square, Suite 2500, Boston, MA, 02108-1750; (617) 557-1030; SJCReporter@sjc.state.ma.us   SJC-12051 SJC-12052   ENGIE GAS & LNG LLC[1]  vs.  DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC UTILITIES (and another case[2]).       Suffolk.     May 5, 2016. – August 17, 2016.   Present:  Gants, C.J., Spina, Cordy, Botsford, Duffly, Lenk, & Hines, JJ.[3]       Department of Public Utilities.  Practice, Civil, Review of order of Department of Public Utilities.  Electric Company. Public Utilities, Electric company, Judicial review.  Gas. Administrative Law, Judicial review, Rulemaking, Agency’s authority, Rate regulation.  Statute, Construction.       Civil actions commenced in the Supreme Judicial Court for the county of Suffolk on October 26 and November 2, 2015.   The cases were reported by Cordy, J.     Thaddeus A. Heuer (Adam P. Kahn & Jesse Harlan Alderman with him) for ENGIE Gas & LNG LLC. David K. Ismay for Conservation Law Foundation. Seth Schofield, Assistant Attorney General, for the Attorney General. Thomas H. Hayman, Special Assistant Attorney General (Francis R. Powell, Special Assistant Attorney General, with him) for the Department of Public Utilities. Cheryl M. Kimball & Matthew A. Sanders, for NSTAR Electric Company & others, amici curae, submitted a brief.     CORDY, J.  These consolidated appeals are before us on a single justice’s reservation and report of challenges made to an order of the Department of Public Utilities (department).  Those challenges raise the question of the department’s authority to review and approve ratepayer-backed, long-term contracts entered into by electric distribution companies for additional natural gas pipeline capacity in the Commonwealth pursuant to G. L. c. 164, § 94A, which requires gas and electric companies to receive departmental approval for any contract for the purchase of gas or electricity lasting longer than one year. The plaintiffs, ENGIE Gas & LNG LLC and Conservation Law Foundation, contend that the order amounted to improper rulemaking in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, G. L. c. 30A.  They also argue that the department’s determination that it has authority pursuant to G. L. c. 164, § 94A, to approve such contracts constitutes an error of law because it contravenes G. L. c. 164, § 94A, as amended through St. 1997, c. 164 (restructuring act).[4] We disagree that the order of the department is an improperly promulgated rule or regulation.  We nevertheless reach the statutory question presented by the plaintiffs, and conclude that the order is invalid in light of the statutory language and purpose of G. L. c. 164, § 94A, as amended by the restructuring […]

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Posted by Massachusetts Legal Resources - August 17, 2016 at 8:38 pm

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