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Local Union Nos. 15, 51 and 702 v. Illinois Commerce Commission

June 20, 2002

LOCAL UNION NOS. 15, 51, AND 702, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRICAL WORKERS, PETITIONERS,
v.
THE ILLINOIS COMMERCE COMMISSION AND WPS ENERGY SERVICES, INC., AND BLACKHAWK ENERGY SERVICES, L.L.C., RESPONDENTS.



Appeal from an Order of the Illinois Commerce Commission. No. 00-199

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Welch

Released for publication.

LOCAL UNION NOS. 15, 51, AND 702, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRICAL WORKERS, PETITIONERS,
v.
THE ILLINOIS COMMERCE COMMISSION AND WPS ENERGY SERVICES, INC., AND BLACKHAWK ENERGY SERVICES, L.L.C., RESPONDENTS.

Appeal from an Order of the Illinois Commerce Commission. No. 00-199

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Welch

Local Union Nos. 15, 51, and 702 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (petitioners) appeal from a decision by the Illinois Commerce Commission (Commission) reaffirming a certificate of authority that the Commission had granted to the respondent, WPS Energy Services, Inc. (WPS), to operate as an alternative retail electric supplier (ARES) under article XVI of the Public Utilities Act (220 ILCS 5/16-101 (West 2000)). Petitioners specifically challenge the Commission's construction of section 16-115(d)(5) of the Electric Service Customer Choice and Rate Relief Law of 1997 (220 ILCS 5/16-101 (West 2000)) (reciprocity provision). Petitioners contend that the Commission erred in its construction of the reciprocity provision. We agree, and for the reasons that follow, we reverse the decision of the Commission and remand for further proceedings.

In 1997, the Illinois legislature passed article XVI of the Public Utilities Act, entitled the Electric Service Customer Choice and Rate Relief Law of 1997 (Customer Choice Law) (220 ILCS 5/16-101 (West 2000)). The Customer Choice Law introduced competition for the first time into the Illinois electricity market and moved the Illinois electric industry from a heavily regulated world toward a competitive marketplace. Commonwealth Edison Co. v. Illinois Commerce Comm'n, 322 Ill. App. 3d 846, 848 (2001); Illinois Power Co. v. Illinois Commerce Comm'n, 316 Ill. App. 3d 254, 257 (2000). The Customer Choice Law opened the electricity market to participants other than the existing, vertically integrated utilities, and it allowed for the creation of entities called alternative retail electric suppliers. Illinois Power Co., 316 Ill. App. 3d at 257. An ARES may or may not be affiliated with an existing utility company, and it is authorized to sell and market electricity to customers. Illinois Power Co., 316 Ill. App. 3d at 257.

For an entity to operate as an ARES and serve any retail customer or other user in the State of Illinois, the entity must first obtain a certificate of service authority from the Commission. 220 ILCS 5/16-115(a) (West 2000). A verified application containing information showing that the applicant meets the requirements of section 16-115 must be filed with the Commission. 220 ILCS 5/16-115(b) (West 2000). The Commission shall then grant the application for a certificate of service authority if it makes certain findings as set forth in subsection (d) of section 16-115. 220 ILCS 5/16-115(d) (West 2000).

Section 16-115(d) provides as follows:

"(d) The Commission shall grant the application for a certificate of service authority if it makes the findings set forth in this subsection based on the verified application and such other information as the applicant may submit:

(1) That the applicant possesses sufficient technical, financial[,] and managerial resources and abilities to provide the service for which it seeks a certificate of service authority. ***;

(2) That the applicant will comply with all applicable federal, State, regional[,] and industry rules, policies, practices[,] and procedures for the use, operation, and maintenance of the safety, integrity[,] and reliability[] of the interconnected electric transmission system;

(3) That the applicant will only provide service to retail customers in an electric utility's service area that are eligible to take delivery services under this Act;

(4) That the applicant will comply with such informational or reporting requirements as the Commission may by rule establish and provide the ...


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