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Breiding v. Eversource Energy

United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

September 18, 2019, Decided

No. 18-1995

Opinion

 [*49]  KAYATTA, Circuit Judge. Eversource Energy and Avangrid, Inc. ("the defendants") are two large energy companies that purchase natural gas directly from producers and then resell that gas to retail natural gas consumers throughout New England. In order to transport the natural gas that the defendants purchase from far-away producers to their own, localized system of pipeline infrastructure [**2]  for delivery to their customers, the defendants reserve transportation capacity along the interstate Algonquin Gas pipeline. The plaintiffs, a putative class of retail electricity customers in New England, allege that the defendants strategically reserved excess capacity along the Algonquin Gas pipeline without using or reselling it. This conduct, they claim, unduly constrained the volume of natural gas flowing through New England, thereby raising wholesale natural gas prices, which in turn resulted in higher retail electricity rates paid by New England electricity consumers.

The plaintiffs brought this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, asserting that the defendants' conduct violated section 2 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2, and various state antitrust and consumer-protection laws. The district court dismissed the plaintiffs' claims as being barred by the filed-rate doctrine and, alternatively, for lack of antitrust standing and the plaintiffs' failure to plausibly allege a monopolization claim under the Sherman Act. Although our reasoning differs from that of the district court in several respects, we agree that the filed-rate doctrine presents an insurmountable hurdle [**3]  for the plaintiffs' federal and state-law claims. We therefore find no need to reach the district court's alternative grounds for dismissal.

] Because the district court disposed of the plaintiffs' claims on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), "we take as true all well-pleaded facts in [their] complaint[], scrutinize them in the light most hospitable to [their] theory of liability, and draw all reasonable inferences therefrom in [their] favor." Fothergill v. United States, 566 F.3d 248, 251 (1st Cir. 2009). In so doing, we may also consider "facts subject to judicial notice, implications from documents incorporated into the complaint, and concessions in the complainant's response to the motion to dismiss." Arturet-Velez v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 429 F.3d 10, 13 n.2 (1st Cir. 2005).

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939 F.3d 47 *; 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 28036 **; 2019-2 Trade Cas. (CCH) P80,935; 2019 WL 4463281

SCOTT BREIDING; AMY POLLUTRO; MIKAELA ORTSTEIN-OTERO; BENJAMIN ROSE; MARGARET LEWIS; RICHARD LEWIS; ERIC LONG; PETER STEERS; BRADFORD KEITH; JOHN ODUM; DAVID LEIGHTON; DONNA CORDEIRO; JANICE ANGELILLO; ANNA MARIA FORNINO; MICHELE CASSETTA; JUDY CENNAMI, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, Plaintiffs, Appellants, ERIK ALLEN; NICHOLAS CORREIA; JANICE BRADY; OPAL ASH; ROBERTO PRATS; MARK LEJEUNE, Plaintiffs, v. EVERSOURCE ENERGY, a Massachusetts voluntary association; AVANGRID, INC., a New York corporation, Defendants, Appellees.

Prior History:  [**1] APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS. Hon. Denise J. Casper, U.S. District Judge.

Breiding v. Eversource Energy, 344 F. Supp. 3d 433, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 154610 (D. Mass., Sept. 11, 2018)

CORE TERMS

natural gas, FERC, plaintiffs', electricity, tariff, filed-rate, antitrust, wholesale, rates, transportation, transmission, district court, regulations, state-law, retail, pipeline, energy, gas pipeline, generators, purchasers, defendants', challenges, contracts, no-notice, reserved, prices, resell, federal claim, spot market, interstate

Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Pleadings, Complaints, Requirements for Complaint, Defenses, Demurrers & Objections, Motions to Dismiss, Failure to State Claim, Antitrust & Trade Law, Regulated Industries, Energy & Utilities, US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Business & Corporate Compliance, Energy & Utilities Law, Natural Gas Industry, Natural Gas Act, Energy & Utilities Law, Regulators, US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Authorities & Powers, Electric Power Industry, Federal Power Act, Federal Rate Regulation, Exemptions & Immunities, Filed Rate Doctrine, Public Utilities & Telecommunications Carriers, Electric Power Rates, Filed Rate Doctrine, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supplemental Jurisdiction, Pendent Claims