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Indiana Court of Appeals Affirms IURC Order in IPL Rate Case: Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC)

On April 5, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) order in Cause No. 44576, which authorized a rate increase for Indianapolis Power & Light Company (IPL). Citizens Action Coalition, Indiana Community Action Association et al v. Indianapolis Power & Light Company, et al, Court of Appeals Case No. 93A02-1604-EX-804.

The appeal of the IURC’s March 16, 2016, order was undertaken by Citizens Action Coalition, Indiana Community Action Association, Indiana Coalition for Human Services, Indiana Association for Community Economic Development, National Association of Social Workers Indiana Chapter, and Indiana State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, collectively referred to as the joint intervenors.

The joint intervenors claimed that the order lacked adequate support and challenged the lack of findings addressing 1) the impact of the declining block rate (DBR) upon energy conservation and 2) the effect of DBR on elderly and African-American customers. The joint intervenors also challenged the IURC’s rejection of a proposal for 25% low-income customer subsidies and the rejection of proposed mandatory data reporting by IPL.

The court declined to reweigh the evidence and considered the rate increase as a whole. The court stated that: “Challengers have the burden of showing there is insufficient evidence in the record to support the findings of the Commission; they cannot merely cite to other evidence of record which would support a determination more favorable to their position.” The court found that the IURC’s findings contained “enough detail such that we can determine whether the order is reasonable, within the wide discretion of the Commission.”

In addition, the joint intervenors argued that the IURC must make findings with respect to disparate socioeconomic impact of rate increases. The court stated that the joint intervenors had not shown that the IURC had a statutory duty to make any findings at all in this regard. The court stated that “Joint Intervenors were permitted to intervene in a rate-making case, but this did not change the nature of the proceeding from rate-making to a broad socio-economic inquiry akin to that which might be undertaken by the General Assembly.” The court added that the “Commission is to approve rates that are just and reasonable. . . . Joint Intervenors are not entitled to specific findings on propositions they have injected unless it is a matter material to the rate decision.”

With respect to the socio-economic evidence, the court stated that the “drawing of lines in the face of myriad considerations and competing concerns is traditionally a function performed by our General Assembly.”

The court concluded that the intervenors had not shown that the IURC “failed to conform to statutory standards or failed to make requisite findings.”

By separate order, the court granted the intervenors’ motion to dismiss the IURC as a party to this appeal. The court explained that “[b]ecause the Commission acted as a fact-finding administrative tribunal and no statute or administrative provision expressly makes the Commission a party on appeal, it is not a proper party on appeal from its own decision.”

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Nicholas Kile, Barnes Thornburg Law Firm, Indianapolis, Environmental and Litigation Law Attorney
Partner

Nicholas K. Kile is a partner in Barnes & Thornburg LLP’s Indianapolis, Indiana office. He practices primarily in the Governmental Services Department. He represents utilities and local governments in all facets of utility law, including utilities that are regulated in whole or in part by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission and those that are not. Mr. Kile’s practice includes rates and charges, bond issuances, acquisitions, privatizations, lobbying, environmental regulation, annexation, condemnation, territorial disputes, zoning, litigation, main extension agreements, cable...

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Teresa Morton Nyhart Corporate and Energy Law Attorney Barnes Thornburg Law Firm Indianapolis
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Teresa Morton Nyhart is a partner in the Indianapolis office and a member of the Corporate Department. She is also co-chair of the firm's Energy, Telecommunications and Utilities Practice Group, which was the only Indiana firm ranked Tier 1 on U.S. News-Best Lawyers Best Law Firms 2017 list in Indianapolis for energy law. Her practice concentrates on the energy, telecommunications and video/cable industries. She also works with consumers in the negotiation of customer specific contracts and related matters; with developers, property owners and universities; and with woman and minority owned businesses and professionals. Prior to joining the firm, Ms. Morton Nyhart worked for more than four years in the radio broadcasting and communications industry. Drawing on this experience, Ms. Morton Nyhart works with clients regarding crisis communications, media interviews and cross-examination for hearings. In 2015, Ms. Morton Nyhart celebrates 15 years of being rated AV Preeminent from Martindale-Hubbell. She is recognized in Best Lawyers in America in the categories of Energy Law and Communications and was named 2017 Energy Law "Lawyer of the Year". She has also been recognized in Indiana Super Lawyers and in 2009 Super Lawyers Corporate Counsel Edition in the area of Energy and Natural Resources.

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Parvin Price, Barnes Thornburg Law Firm, Indianapolis, Government Services attorney, Finance Department lawyer
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L. Parvin Price is a partner in the Indianapolis office of Barnes & Thornburg LLP. He is member of the Government Services and Finance Department and the Energy, Telecommunications and Utilities Practice Group.

Mr. Price focuses his practice primarily on utility and energy-related matters including natural gas, electricity and water. He also assists clients in the funding of various infrastructure improvement projects. Mr. Price represents investor-owned, cooperatively owned, or municipally owned utilities, as well as industrial or wholesale...

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Hillary Close Utility Law Attorney
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Hillary Close advises on utility law. Her practice combines experience working with clients across utility industries and practical subject matter knowledge with innovative ideas in applying complex and ever-changing regulations to everyday decisions. Hillary is committed to adding value in everything she does, and dedicated to finding cost-conscious solutions for those she serves.

Hillary represents energy, water and wastewater utilities, local governments and other business entities, with a primary focus on utility regulatory matters before the Indiana Utility Regulatory...

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Douglas Everette Energy Telecomm & Utilities Attorney
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Douglas W. Everette is of counsel in Barnes & Thornburg's Indianapolis and Washington, D.C., offices and is a member of the Corporate Department and the Energy, Telecommunications and Utilities Practice Group.

Douglas concentrates his practice on the representation of investor-owned utilities, independent power producers, renewable resources, municipalities, cooperatives, power marketers, industrials and power project developers on the energy regulatory aspects for the financing, development, acquisition and disposition of energy assets. His practice also focuses on representing...

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