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Court splits over whether approval of entire contract must be voided

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Chief Judge Margret Robb dissented from her colleagues on the Court of Appeals Tuesday as to whether approval of a contract for the purchase and sale of substitute natural gas must be voided in its entirety because the contract definition of “retail end use customer” differs from the statutory definition.

The Indiana Finance Authority and Indiana Gasification LLC executed a contract in January 2011 that details the sale and purchase of substitute natural gas that IG plans to produce at a $2.7 billion Rockport plant, with delivery set to begin in the first quarter of 2016.

The IFA and IG sought approval of the contract by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission and requested that the commission order Indiana regulated gas utilities to enter into utility management agreements with IFA so that IFA could pass proceeds and costs to retail end use customers through the utilities, if necessary. Several utilities, industrial companies and citizens groups intervened.

After several public hearings, the commission approved the contract in November 2011. The commission didn’t address the scope of the term “retail end use customer” and found that it could be addressed at a future time. The industrial group filed a petition for reconsideration, arguing that industrial transportation customers were exempt from being classified as retail end use customers under statute and did not have to pay the pass-through costs of the substitute natural gas under the contract. The utilities and citizens groups also appealed.

The appellate judges agreed in Indiana Gas Company, Inc. and Southern Indiana Gas and Electric Company, et al. v. Indiana Finance Authority and Indiana Gasification, LLC, 93A02-1112-EX-1141, that the utilities’ and industrial group’s claims are justiciable and the industrial group has standing to sue. The court also unanimously found the commission did not exceed its jurisdiction under the Substitute Natural Gas Act when it approved the contract as a final purchase contract.

But Judges Patricia Riley and Senior Judge Carr Darden reversed the commission order approving the contract because the contract’s definition of retail end use customer did not conform to what the Legislature intended under the SNG Act. The majority found industrial transportation customers are not subject to the SNG Act as retail end use customers.

Robb believed that reversal of the commission’s approval of the contract in its entirety isn't necessary and that the court could “merely exclude the part of the contract which includes transportation customers in the definition of retail end use customers without frustrating the primary purpose of the contract.”
 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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