Articles Posted in Utilities Law

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Appellants, the New Mexico Attorney General and New Mexico Industrial Energy Consumers, asked the Supreme Court to vacate and annul the final order in PRC Case No. 11-00308-UT (Case 308 Final Order) because it permitted Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) to earn returns on the operating expenses incurred from energy efficiency programs. Appellants argue that such returns are inconsistent with New Mexico law. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that Case 308 Final Order was consistent with the PRC’s ratemaking authority under the New Mexico Public Utility Act, the New Mexico Efficient Use of Energy Act, and with the Court's holding in "Attorney General v. New Mexico Public Regulation Commission" (258 P.3d 453). Furthermore, the Court held that Case 308 Final Order was supported by substantial evidence and was neither arbitrary nor capricious. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the Case 308 Final Order. View "NMAG v. NMPRC" on Justia Law

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A fire destroyed a hydroponic tomato facility belonging to a new business, Sunnyland Farms, Inc. The day before the fire, Sunnyland's electricity had been shut off by its local utility, the Central New Mexico Electrical Cooperative (CNMEC), for nonpayment. Sunnyland's water pumps were powered by electricity, and without power, Sunnyland's facility had no water. Sunnyland sued CNMEC, alleging both that CNMEC had wrongfully suspended service, and if its electrical service had been in place, firefighters and Sunnyland employees would have been able to stop the fire from consuming the facility. After a bench trial, the court found CNMEC liable for negligence and breach of contract. The trial court awarded damages, including lost profits, of over $21 million in contract and tort, but reduced the tort damages by 80% for Sunnyland's comparative fault. It also awarded $100,000 in punitive damages. The parties cross-appealed to the Court of Appeals, which reversed the contract judgment, vacated the punitive damages, held that the lost profit damages were not supported by sufficient evidence, affirmed the trial court's offset of damages based on CNMEC's purchase of a subrogation lien, and affirmed the trial court's rulings on pre- and post-judgment interest. Sunnyland appealed. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals regarding the contract judgment, punitive damages, and interest, and reversed on the lost profit damages and the offset. The Court also took the opportunity of this case to re-examine the standard for consequential contract damages in New Mexico. View "Sunnyland Farms, Inc. v. Central N.M. Electric Cooperative, Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellant TW Telecom of New Mexico (TW Telecom) appealed a final order issued by the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC) in "In the Matter of the Development of an Alternative Form of Regulation Plan for Qwest Corporation" (AFOR III Final Order). TW Telecom claimed that the PRC (1) adopted certain conclusions from a previous final order, lacking justification in the AFOR III record; (2) deregulated Qwest Corporation's (Qwest) rates in violation of the New Mexico Telecommunications Act and the separation of powers doctrine in the New Mexico Constitution; and (3) deprived TW Telecom of proper due process. The claims raised in this appeal involved three cases before the PRC that concerned the development of various alternative forms of regulation plans issued by the PRC, and Qwest's compliance with the terms and conditions therein.  The cases addressed various issues, including pricing provisions and detailed requirements for the filing of tariff changes, tariffs for new services, promotional offerings, packaged services, and individual contracts for services. Upon review, the Supreme Court annulled and vacated AFOR III Final Order and remanded the case back to the PRC for further proceedings. The Court concluded that the PRC indeed violated TW Telecom's due process because it adopted conclusions from a previous proceeding without affording the parties an opportunity to be heard. The Court did not address TW Telecom's second claim. View "TW Telecom of New Mexico v. New Mexico Public Regulation Comm'n" on Justia Law