Indiana Utility Law: When Does a Company Become a Public Utility?

Indiana utility lawyers took note on June 9, 2011, when the Indiana Court of Appeals issued a decision in United States Steel Corporation versus Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) addressing the issue of when a company becomes a public utility.1 The dispute arose after ArcelorMittal acquired property within U.S. Steel’s large-scale northern Indiana operation and began to purchase certain utilities from U.S. Steel, namely electricity and gas.

After failed negotiations, NIPSCO filed a complaint with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) seeking a determination of whether U.S. Steel violated Indiana law and NIPSCO’s tariffs in selling electricity and gas to ArcelorMittal. The IURC determined that U.S. Steel was acting as a public utility in selling electricity and gas to ArcelorMittal, violating Indiana law with respect to electric service areas and NIPSCO’s tariff by reselling gas.

The decision of the IURC was appealed, and the Indiana Court of Appeals found (1) U.S. Steel was not acting as a public utility in selling electricity to ArcelorMittal, (2) U.S. Steel did not violate Indiana’s Service Area Assignments Act by selling electricity to ArcelorMittal, and (3) U.S. Steel was acting as a public utility in transporting natural gas to ArcelorMittal, violating NIPSCO’s gas tariff.

1United States Steel Corp. v. Northern Indiana Public Service Co., No. 93A02-1006-EX-632 (Ind. Ct. App., June 9, 2011).

Angela L. Gidley (former associate)

The statements contained herein are for information purposes only and are not to be considered legal advice and should not be construed to form an attorney-client relationship. If you have questions regarding this article, please contact an attorney.