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Court: IURC erred in approving Duke fee hike

•  Court News     updated  2014/09/09 16:02

The Indiana Court of Appeals has determined that state utility regulators wrongly approved $61 million in ratepayer fees for the Edwardsport coal gasification plant.

Duke Energy is seeking the money to cover construction costs for the new plant. But Appeals Court Judge James Kirsch wrote in an opinion issued Monday that members of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission should have better analyzed arguments from Duke Energy and plant opponents before approving the fee increase.


Duke officials have said a three-month delay led to increased project costs. But opponents led by the Citizens Action Coalition have argued that IURC regulators have been "rubber-stamping" fees and a rate hike sought by Duke.

The case is one of many surrounding the Edwardsport plant that is locked in battle inside the Indiana courts.

Ohio to court: Privatizing prisons in budget is legal

•  Court News     updated  2014/09/08 16:02

State lawyers tell the Ohio Supreme Court that using a budget bill to privatize state prisons didn’t violate a constitutional provision holding bills to a single subject.In a brief filed today, Ohio said the state’s budget, like any family’s, involves both revenues and expenses — not just appropriations.

The filing comes in a legal dispute with the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association. The prison workers’ union filed suit over privatization in 2012, contending that lawmakers extended beyond the single-subject rule when they used the budget to sell a state prison and turn others over to private operators.

An appellate court agreed, finding in October there was no “rational relationship” between the privatization plan and state spending.The state says privatization saved Ohio money and so had “obvious budget connections.”

Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada gay marriage laws in court

•  Court Watch     updated  2014/09/07 16:03

For the first time since it declared California's gay marriage ban unconstitutional, the federal appeals court in San Francisco is readying to hear arguments over same-sex weddings in a political and legal climate that's vastly different than when it overturned Proposition 8 in 2012.

State and federal court judges have been striking down bans in more than a dozen states at a rapid rate since a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year.

Now, three judges on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — all appointed by Democrats and one of whom wrote the opinion overturning Proposition 8 — are set to hear arguments Monday on gay marriage bans in Idaho, Nevada and Hawaii.

"It seemed like such an uphill battle when I started," said Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "I really couldn't imagine then that we would be where we are now."

Minter has been fighting for gay marriage for 21 years, was instrumental in challenging bans in California and Utah and is representing gay couples seeking to overturn Idaho's prohibition.


North Carolina's highest court is examining whether state utilities regulators correctly weighed the consumer impact of two rate increases for a Duke Energy operating unit.

The state Supreme Court was scheduled to hear arguments Monday in two lawsuits in which Attorney General Roy Cooper argues regulators didn't sufficiently consider the size of rate increases. The two rate cases involve Duke Energy Carolinas, a Duke Energy subsidiary serving customers in Durham and western North Carolina.

One case involves a 4.5 percent average increase approved last year for two years, growing to a 5.1 percent increase thereafter. The second involves a 7.2 percent rate increase originally approved in 2012. Consumers are already paying the higher rates.

Cooper appealed the 2012 rate increase and the Supreme Court last year ordered the North Carolina Utilities Commission to reconsider its size in light of its effect on customers. The commission did, but came to the same conclusion.

Cooper's staff attorneys argued in court filings that regulators didn't really make the findings of fact about the effect of changing economic conditions on customers required by the Supreme Court in last year's ruling.

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