Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Third Division
In the Matter of: LACLEDE GAS COMPANY'S VERIFIED APPLICATION TO REESTABLISH and EXTEND THE FINANCING AUTHORITY PREVIOUSLY APPROVED BY THE COMMISSION, Appellant,
MISSOURI PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION; OFFICE OF PUBLIC COUNSEL, Respondents.
from the Public Service Commission
Alok Ahuja, P.J., and Victor C. Howard and James E. Welsh,
Gas Company applied to the Public Service Commission (the
"PSC" or "Commission") for authority to
issue long-term financing. The Commission granted Laclede
only part of the financing authority it requested. Laclede
appeals. We affirm.
is a public utility which distributes, transports, and sells
natural gas to approximately 640, 000 retail customers in
eastern Missouri, and approximately 500, 000 customers in
western Missouri under the name Missouri Gas Energy. Laclede
is subject to the Commission's jurisdiction.
to § 393.200,  Laclede must seek PSC approval for the
issuance of long-term financing. On April 15, 2015, Laclede
applied for authority to issue up to $550 million in
long-term financing through September 30, 2018. Staff opposed
the petition and recommended that the PSC approve financing
authority of only $300 million.
held an evidentiary hearing, and issued its Report and Order
on February 10, 2016. In its order the Commission concluded
that "Laclede's currently-known financing needs are
less than the amount of the authority requested, " and
that Laclede "only expects to issue $300 million in
financing between [the date of the order] and 2018." The
Commission found that, although "Laclede anticipates
approximately $550 million in capital expenditures"
during the relevant time period, it "expects to cover
$250 million of this amount through operating cash flow
rather than through financing." The Commission noted
that, in presentations to rating agencies, Laclede had stated
that it expected to issue $300 million in long-term financing
through 2018. The Commission also noted that $370 million of
the authority the Commission had approved in Laclede's
prior financing case remained unissued.
on its findings, the PSC authorized Laclede to issue $300
million in long-term financing for the specified purposes of
"refinancing short-term debt, funding capital
expenditures, and retiring long-term debt schedule to
mature." Because Laclede had no current plans to issue
the remaining $250 million in financing for which it had
requested authorization, the PSC declined to authorize that
additional amount simply to give Laclede the
"flexibility" to respond to unknown future
developments in the industry or in financial markets. The PSC
adopted the conclusion of its order in Laclede's 2010
financing case, where it denied Laclede's request for
additional long-term financing authority to afford the
company such financial "flexibility." The PSC noted
that Laclede was free to make future requests for additional
financing authority in a "specified amount supported by
a specified purpose as the law requires."
Pursuant to section 386.510, the appellate standard of review
of a PSC order is two-pronged: first, the reviewing court
must determine whether the PSC's order is lawful; and
second, the court must determine whether the order is
reasonable. The burden of proof is upon the appellant to show
that the order or decision of the PSC is unlawful or
unreasonable. The lawfulness of a PSC order is determined by
whether statutory authority for its issuance exists, and all
legal issues are reviewed de novo. An order's
reasonableness depends on whether it is supported by
substantial and competent evidence on the whole record, and
the appellate court considers the evidence together with all
reasonable supporting inferences in the light most favorable
to the Commission's order. The Commission's factual
findings are presumptively correct, and if substantial
evidence supports either of two conflicting factual
conclusions, the Court is bound by the findings of the
State ex rel. AG Processing, Inc. v. Pub. Serv.
Comm'n, 120 S.W.3d 732, 734-35 (Mo. banc 2003)
(footnotes omitted); see also State ex rel. Union Elec.
Co. v. Pub. Serv. Comm'n,399 ...