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Farmington asks 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to deny appeal in solar rate case

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
The Coliseum is one of several plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the City of Farmington. The plaintiffs allege Farmington has unfair charges for customers who have solar panels. The Coliseum has an approximately 11 kilowatt solar array on its roof.

AZTEC — The City of Farmington is asking the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to dismiss an appealed lawsuit alleging that it charges a discriminatory rate to electric customers who generate part of their own electricity. The city argues that the lawsuit does not fall within the court's jurisdiction.

The lawsuit was filed with the court of appeals after a district judge dismissed it based on jurisdiction and stated that it should be refiled in state court. The parties presented arguments related to jurisdiction during an argument session on Jan. 20.

A recording of the session can be viewed on YouTube or by visiting the website.

The lawsuit was brought against the City of Farmington in 2019 by the non-profit group Vote Solar on behalf of several Farmington residents as well as a business that have solar panels to generate part of their electricity.

If the 10th Circuit determines it is not within the federal court's jurisdiction, the plaintiffs will refile the case in state court.

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The case is based on the standby service rider that the city implemented in 2017 following a rate study. This rider charges Farmington Electric Utility System customers who generate some of their own power a rider that is based on the size of their generation system, such as a solar array. This rider is charged on top of the regular usage rate.

The plaintiffs in the case argue that charging an additional fee to people who have solar panels on their houses is discriminatory. They say the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has set rules under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act that prevent discriminatory rates from being charged against solar customers. 

However, the City of Farmington argues that the standby service rider allows the city to pay to have electricity on standby that it can dispatch on a moment's notice to the solar customer if the panels are offline. The city also argues that the rider helps pay for the infrastructure needed to get the electricity to the houses.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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