Board of County Commissioners v. Perennial Solar, LLC

212 A.3d 868 (2019)

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Board of County Commissioners v. Perennial Solar, LLC

Maryland Court of Appeals
212 A.3d 868 (2019)

Facts

As part of Maryland’s attempts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, the Maryland General Assembly enacted statutes governing renewable-energy-resource development in the state. The Public Utilities Article of the Maryland Code (PU) gave the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) the authority to approve solar-energy-generating stations (SEGS) in Maryland. Barring a statutory exemption, the PSC was required to extensively review SEGS applications and issue a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) before SEGS could be constructed. The statute gave the PSC authority to approve the siting and construction of SEGS that required a CPCN after considering factors including the recommendation of the governing body of any county where the SEGS would be located. A Washington County, Maryland (the county) (plaintiff) zoning ordinance permitted SEGS as a land use by special exception in rural zoning districts within the county. The ordinance set forth specific design standards for SEGS, including lot size and appearance. Perennial Solar, LLC (Perennial) (defendant) applied to the county zoning board for a special exception allowing the construction of a SEGS near a rural village in the county and a variance allowing the construction of Perennial’s solar arrays over internal property lines. The zoning board granted the special exception and variance, and landowners (plaintiffs) sought judicial review in Maryland state court. During the proceedings, Perennial asserted that under PU § 7-207, the PSC had exclusive jurisdiction over the siting of SEGS that required a CPCN, and that the PU preempted local zoning ordinances by implication. The trial court held that the PU preempted the county’s zoning ordinance. The appellate court affirmed, and the county appealed to Maryland’s highest court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Booth, J.)

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