On Friday, Superior Court Judge Brian Stern put a pause on PPL's purchase of Rhode Island's electric and gas utility from National Grid. This pause is temporary and will allow for the judge to hear the Attorney General's case on why the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers misunderstood the laws that govern this transaction. Specifically, the judge said that since the Division failed to take into account either potential ratepayer or climate change impacts of the sale, the Attorney General is likely to succeed in its appeal. Additionally, the judge determined that if he let the sale close prior to the appeal being done, there would be no reasonable way to undo the transaction, so it must be paused until he can finish a full review of the case.
In the new decision, the superior court judge says that the Hearing Officer’s logic in this definition of “public interest” was faulty and contradictory. We agree.
There will be a hearing on April 12th in Providence as the Attorney General, PPL, and National Grid get to present their case. Green Energy Consumers Alliance has already filed its friend of the court brief highlighting how critical it is to hold the Division to its obligation under the Act on Climate to consider the climate impacts of the transaction.
In past blogs and in our intervention in the Division case, we made the case that the Division’s review of the transaction’s impact on the “public interest” must include environmental and climate impacts. We further stated—and the Division initially seemed to agree—that it should consider the sale’s impact on ratepayer clean energy programs, like energy efficiency and offshore wind. In the February order approving the sale, the Division said that it didn’t need to consider climate impacts as part of the public interest. The Division also said that the Rhode Island Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council and the Public Utilities Commission had jurisdiction over climate programs and rates, respectively. In our view, and apparently Judge Stern’s, the hearing officer failed to understand the relevance of the Act on Climate.
Further coverage of Judge Stern’s decision is here.