Where is the “Appropriate Court”?: Original Jurisdiction Under the Northwest Power Act

John L. Schilling, Where is the “Appropriate Court”?: Original Jurisdiction Under the Northwest Power Act, 25 Gonz. L. Rev. 119 (1989).

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The Pacific Northwest Electric Power Planning and Conservation Act (Northwest Power Act) was passed by Congress in 1980, the result of three years of debate and compromise. The Northwest Power Act was intended in part to avoid a “regional civil war” over allocation of federal power. The Act expressly establishes principles governing judicial review of administrative actions.

The Act provides a non-exhaustive list of specific “final actions” within the jurisdiction of the court of appeals and prescribes the scope of review for such actions, which is “limited to the administrative record compiled in accordance with this chapter.” The standard of review is the “arbitrary and capricious” standard of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and, in the case of rates, “substantial evidence in the rulemaking record.”

By and large, judicial review under the Northwest Power Act has proven satisfactory as most cases are resolved swiftly by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. While various entities would challenge the outcomes on the merits of cases decided under the Act, the process has proven efficient and fair. A number of ambiguities linger in the jurisdictional provisions, however, that have created confusion in the courts.

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