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COA rules on public utility issues

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission finding United States Steel Corp. acted as a public utility when it delivered electricity and natural gas to another steel producer in northwestern Indiana.

U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal had an arrangement in which U.S. Steel would provide the electricity and natural gas to the Plate Mill located within the steel-making operation of U.S. Steel. The two companies swapped facilities within their respective industrial complexes, so ArcelorMittal began operating this mill. Electricity would originally come from Northern Indiana Public Service Company; U.S. Steel arranged with NIPSCO to transport natural gas from other producers to the mill, which was paid for by ArcelorMittal.

The steel producers filed an informal complaint, and later a formal complaint, with the IURC Consumer Affairs Division, seeking a determination that their actions didn’t violate any tariff, contract, or other utility law. NIPSCO filed a formal complaint that U.S. Steel had violated Indiana law and NIPSCO’s tariffs by selling electricity and gas service.

A final order of the IURC determined that U.S. Steel’s provision of electricity and transportation of natural gas to ArcelorMittal made U.S. Steel a public utility as defined by statute. Both U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal, as well as NIPSCO, appealed the order.

In United States Steel Corp., et al. v. Northern Indiana Public Service Co., No. 93A02-1006-EX-632, the appellate court determined the regulatory commission erred in determining that U.S. Steel’s delivery of electricity to ArcelorMittal made it a public utility under Indiana Code 8-1-2-1(a). The delivery of electricity for use at the mill did not amount to service directly or indirectly to the public. U.S. Steel provided electricity to only one customer located within its industrial complex pursuant to a special agreement, wrote Judge Paul Mathias. The commission also erred in concluding U.S. Steel had violated Indiana’s Service Area Assignments Act by selling electricity to ArcelorMittal within NIPSCO’s exclusive electric service area because U.S. Steel isn’t a public utility so it is not an electricity supplier.

The judges affirmed the commission on the issue of whether U.S. Steel acted as a public utility regarding the delivery of natural gas to ArcelorMittal at the mill. U.S. Steels activities fell under subsection 2 of I.C. 8-1-2-87.5(b), which says that anyone “engaged in the transportation of gas solely within this state on behalf of any end use consumer or consumers” is a public utility. As such, U.S. Steel’s resale of natural gas purchased from NIPSCO to ArcelorMittal violated NIPSCO’s tariff ban on resale.

The appellate court also affirmed the dismissal of the steel producers’ complaint against NIPSCO and held that the regulatory commission wasn’t required to address NIPSCO’s additional claims, which it chose not to do. They remanded for the commission to vacate the portions of its order regarding U.S. Steel being a public utility in the distribution of electricity.
 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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