After deciding late last week to take up a pivotal case impacting the proposed natural gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC, the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear two other cases that have implications for the energy industry.
The nation’s highest court denied a petition for writ of certiorari in a case challenging Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC’s (MVP) eminent domain proceedings, a decision favoring the natural gas pipeline developer.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court also denied a petition filed by Sempra Energy’s San Diego Gas & Electric Co. (SDG&E), declining to hear the utility’s challenge to a California Public Utilities Commission decision denying cost recovery related to 2007 wildfires.
In the MVP case, landowners have attempted to challenge the timing of when the pipeline developer can take land through eminent domain powers delegated under the Natural Gas Act. The landowners had asked the Supreme Court to answer whether eminent domain can be granted prior to the conclusion of proceedings to determine just compensation. The high court declined to hear a similar case earlier this year.
According to analysts at ClearView Energy Partners LLC, this particular MVP challenge “posed little schedule risk” to the project, “as the pipeline has already been able to access the relevant properties. This eminent domain case differed from others as it challenged when a pipeline can access land under eminent domain, not whether the pipeline has the legal authority to do so.”
As for SDG&E’s petition, the Supreme Court declining to hear the case signals that the utility remains on the hook for $379 million in costs incurred by wildfires that raced through Southern California in 2007.
SDG&E had previously attempted to challenge the CPUC decision in California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal last year.
The case is part of the broader, ongoing questions over liability issues for utilities in a state that has faced unprecedented wildfires in recent years. Notably, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. has faced scrutiny from regulators over its liability for recent wildfires as it navigates Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.
While the Supreme Court has denied SDG&E’s petition, the utility may find some measure of relief from $21 billion legislation passed in California this year seeking to enact a more comprehensive approach to providing citizens and major electricity providers protection against the devastating impacts of wildfires.