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United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
January 4, 2016, Filed
[*301] W. EUGENE DAVIS, Circuit Judge: [**2]
The question presented in this appeal is whether the district court abused its discretion when it entered an order indefinitely staying this proceeding to allow the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission [*302] ("FERC") to act on an administrative complaint filed by Plaintiff-Appellant Occidental Chemical Corporation ("Occidental") against a non-party to this action, which largely concerns the same issues. The district court based its order on the primary jurisdiction doctrine, which is essentially a form of abstention. Under this doctrine, a district court with subject matter jurisdiction may, under appropriate circumstances, defer to another forum, such as an administrative agency, which also has non-exclusive jurisdiction, based on its determination that the benefits of obtaining aid from that other forum outweigh the need for expeditious litigation.1 Occidental essentially argues that the indefinite nature of the stay outweighs any potential benefit. For the reasons set forth, we agree.
The dispute arises under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978, Pub. L. No. 95-617, 92 Stat. 3117 ("PURPA"), which was originally passed in 1978 and was "designed to combat the nationwide energy crisis." [**3] 2 The Supreme Court has explained the relevant statute, § 210, as follows:
] Section 210 of PURPA's Title II, 92 Stat. 3144, 16 U.S.C. § 824a-3, seeks to encourage the development of cogeneration and small power production facilities. Congress believed that increased use of these sources of energy would reduce the demand for traditional fossil fuels. But it also felt that two problems impeded the development of nontraditional generating facilities: (1) traditional electricity utilities were reluctant to purchase power from, and to sell power to, the nontraditional facilities, and (2) the regulation of these alternative energy sources by state and federal utility authorities imposed financial burdens upon the nontraditional facilities and thus discouraged their development.
In order to overcome the first of these perceived problems, § 210(a) directs FERC, in consultation with state regulatory authorities, to promulgate "such rules as it determines necessary to encourage cogeneration and small power production," including rules requiring utilities to offer to sell electricity to, and purchase electricity from, qualifying cogeneration and small power production facilities. ] Section 210(f), 16 U.S.C. § 824a—3(f), requires each state regulatory authority and nonregulated utility to implement [**4] FERC's rules. And § 210(h), 16 U.S.C. § 824a—3(h), authorizes FERC to enforce this requirement in federal court against any state authority or nonregulated utility; if FERC fails to act after request, any qualifying utility may bring suit.
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810 F.3d 299 *; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 10 **
OCCIDENTAL CHEMICAL CORPORATION, Plaintiff - Appellant v. LOUISIANA PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION; ERIC SKRMETTA, in his capacity as Commissioner; SCOTT ANGELLE, in his capacity as Commissioner; LAMBERT BOISSIERE, in his capacity as Commissioner; CLYDE C. HOLLOWAY, in his capacity as Commissioner; FOSTER L. CAMPBELL, in his capacity as Commissioner; ENTERGY LOUISIANA, L.L.C., Defendants - Appellees
Prior History: [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana.
Occidental Chem. Corp. v. La. PSC, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 6178 (M.D. La., Jan. 20, 2015)
district court, doctrine of primary jurisdiction, Integration, proceedings, parties, rights, appellate jurisdiction, stay order, electricity, indefinite, regulations, facilities, courts, energy, defer, primary jurisdiction, regulatory authority, cogeneration, nonregulated, coordinates, qualifying, staying, cases, enforcement action, final decision, abstention, expertise, intervene, benefits, costs
Business & Corporate Compliance, Cogeneration & Independent Companies, Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act, Compliance Enforcement, Administrative Law, Judicial Review, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, Separation of Powers, Primary Jurisdiction, De Novo Standard of Review