Louisville Gas & Electric Co. v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, No. 19-4225 (6th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
The companies (Louisville) own and operate electric generation, transmission, and distribution facilities in Kentucky and Virginia; about 20 years ago, they joined MISO, which operates across 15 states (including Kentucky). Customers pay a single rate for access to transmission lines throughout the MISO service territory even if those lines are owned by multiple utilities. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved a merger between the companies.
The Commission later approved Louisville's withdrawal from MISO, requiring Louisville to provide its wholesale customers protections like those they enjoyed through MISO so that a transmission of energy from a within-MISO generator to the customer’s facilities would incur only one charge. Once Louisville withdrew, its wholesale customers could face two charges (pancaking): one from MISO for the trip from the power plant to the MISO/Louisville border, then another from Louisville for the trip to the final destination. Louisville contracted with its wholesale customers accordingly, including Owensboro’s municipally-owned utility. To secure backup service in case its coal-fired plant suffered outages, Owensboro bought reservations of transmission rights from MISO and another within-MISO generator and asked Louisville to absorb the costs, citing Louisville’s promise to “shield” wholesale customers from pancaking of transmission charges for certain transactions in which they purchased electricity from a within-MISO source for delivery in Louisville’s territory. Louisville refused,
Owensboro brought a complaint before the Commission, 16 U.S.C. 825e. The Commission agreed that the contract required Louisville to absorb all the costs. The Sixth Circuit vacated. In "a straightforward case of contract interpretation," the Commission did not address the operative text but treated the matter as an invitation to make complex policy choices.