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Contested Case

Contested Case

What You Need to Know

Permitting Timeline: 12 Months

The PUC Role

The Commission reviews applications, determines the review method, helps build the record, holds a public meeting, and the Commissioners will make the final decision about whether to issue a certificate of need.

Relevant Statutes: Minn. Rules 7849/ Minn. Stat. §§ 216B.243, 216B.2421

Who Is Involved: 

Minnesota Public Utilities Commission

Department of Commerce - Department of Energy Resources

Department of Commerce - Energy Environmental Review & Analysis

Office of Administrative Hearings - Administrative Law Judge

Permitting Process:

When a certificate of need (CN) is submitted to the Commission a comment period is opened on whether the application contains the information required under the statutes and rules, and whether there is enough information to begin the CN review process. At the close of the comment period the Commission decides whether to accept or reject the application.  If the application is accepted the Commission will also determine which review procedures should be followed develop the record.

The contested case proceeding is used when there is controversy related to a proposed large energy project or it is used when the Commission believes there are issues about the project that should be examined more closely, known as record development.  In contested cases there are formal parties that participate in the case.  These parties will usually hire their own experts or witnesses on the specific issues they are interested in. These witnesses submit testimony to support their position.  After testimony has been placed into the record, there is a court-like proceeding overseen by and Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  During the court-like proceeding the experts or witnesses take the stand and are asked questions by the other parties about their testimony.  This process further develops the record on issues and can clarify what the witness is intending to communicate.

At the end of the court-like proceeding the parties submit additional comments further arguing their position and pointing out what they believe to be the flaws in the other parties’ positions on the issues.  

The ALJ reviews the entire record and develops a report known as Findings of Facts, Conclusions of Law, and Recommendations. The report sets out the issues raised, and arguments made, it confirms whether the Applicant has met the requirements under the law, and whether the procedural requirements of the review process have been met.  Finally, the ALJ’s Report provides recommendations to the Commission on whether to grant a CN to the applicant and whether there should be any additional requirements or conditions to address the potential impacts of the project.

Parties have an opportunity to respond to the ALJ’s Report to clarify the record, called exceptions, to indicate their support, or set out their opposition to what the Judge has provided.

Next, the Commission reviews everything that is in the record.  The Commission then has a public agenda meeting.  The public agenda meeting allows each Commissioner the opportunity to ask any questions of the parties.  Once all questions are answered, the Commissioners discuss the issues in the docket and indicate their thoughts and conclusions, and how and why they arrived at those conclusions. After the discussions, individual Commissioners make motions in which they recommend, to their fellow Commissioners, how they believe the issues should be determined.  All Commissioners present at the meeting then vote on the motions presented.  A simple majority vote is required for a motion to pass.

Finally, a written order is issued that provides a summary discussion of the major issues raised during the proceeding and what the positions of the parties were.  Lastly, the order describes what the Commission decided and the supporting arguments for that decision. 

Need More Help?

Email public.advisor.puc@state.mn.us

Call the Commission @651-296-0406

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