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Hommrich v. Commonwealth

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

August 2, 2019, Submitted; May 12, 2020, Decided; May 12, 2020, Filed

No. 674 M.D. 2016

Opinion

OPINION BY JUDGE WOJCIK

Before this Court for disposition, in our original jurisdiction, are the parties' cross Applications for Summary Relief to Petitioner David N. Hommrich's (Hommrich) "Amended Petition for Review in the Nature of a Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief" (Amended Petition) under the Declaratory Judgments Act (DJA).1 Specifically, Hommrich seeks a declaration that Respondent Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission's (PUC)2 regulations on alternative energy projects are invalid and unenforceable. In turn, the PUC seeks the dismissal of Hommrich's Amended Petition because the regulations are valid and enforceable or, alternatively, an evidentiary hearing. For the reasons that follow, we grant in part and deny in part the parties' cross Applications [*2]  for Summary Relief.

I. Background

In January 2017, Hommrich filed his Amended Petition challenging the PUC's regulations3 pertaining to net metering as unauthorized under the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act (AEPS Act),4 and seeking a declaration of invalidity in addition to other relief. The PUC responded by filing preliminary objections, which this Court sustained in part and overruled in part, thereby leaving only the issue of whether the challenged regulatory provisions are invalid and unenforceable under the AEPS Act. See Hommrich v. Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission, 2017 Pa. Commw. Unpub. LEXIS 555 (Pa. Cmwlth., No. 674 M.D. 2016, filed July 28, 2017).5 The PUC then filed an Answer and New Matter to the Amended Petition, to which Hommrich responded. Thereafter, the parties filed the cross Applications for Summary Relief now before us.

II. Issues

Hommrich asserts that the PUC does not have statutory authority to promulgate certain regulations establishing eligibility criteria for net metering. Even if it did, Hommrich contends that the regulations run afoul of the AEPS Act and this Court's holding in Sunrise Energy, LLC v. FirstEnergy Corp., 148 A.3d 894, 901 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2016), appeal denied, 642 Pa. 15, 169 A.3d 1025 (Pa. 2017). Specifically, Hommrich challenges the following regulations: [*3] 

52 Pa. Code §75.1 — Definitions of "customer-generator" and "utility"

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2020 Pa. Commw. LEXIS 389 *

David N. Hommrich, Petitioner v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission, Respondent

Prior History:  [*1] Court of ORIGINAL JURISDICTION.

Hommrich v. Commonwealth, 2017 Pa. Commw. Unpub. LEXIS 555 (July 28, 2017)

CORE TERMS

regulations, AEPS Act, customer-generator, metering, electric, alternative energy, generation, promulgate, grid, interconnection, rule-making, public utility, emergency, customer, summary relief, eligibility, facilities, megawatts, challenged regulation, aggregation, definitions, qualify, energy, retail, load, unenforceable, provisions, electric utility, recommendation, environmental

Civil Procedure, Appeals, Summary Judgment, Entitlement as Matter of Law, Appropriateness, Materiality of Facts, Declaratory Judgments, State Declaratory Judgments, Scope of Declaratory Judgments, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Business & Corporate Compliance, Energy & Utilities Law, Electric Power Industry, State Regulation, Energy & Utilities Law, Electricity Distribution & Transmission, Electricity Generation, Solar Power Industry, Administrative Law, Separation of Powers, Legislative Controls, Scope of Delegated Authority, Judicial Review, Standards of Review, Rule Interpretation, Regulators, Public Utility Commissions, Authorities & Powers, Environmental Law, Administrative Proceedings & Litigation, Authorities & Powers, Environmental Oversight, Evidence, Inferences & Presumptions, Presumptions, Particular Presumptions, Standards of Review