CITIZENS AGAINST OVERHEAD POWER LINE CONSTRUCTION et al. v. CONNECTICUT SITING COUNCIL, SC 19107

Judicial District of New Britain

 

      Administrative Appeals; Whether Trial Court Lacked Jurisdiction Because Plaintiffs did not Appeal from Agency’s Final Decision. The Connecticut Light & Power Company (CL&P) applied to the Connecticut Siting Council for a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need for the construction, operation and maintenance of a project designed to cure deficiencies in existing electricity transmission lines in north-central Connecticut and the greater Springfield area.  The project consisted of two component projects, the Springfield project and the Manchester project.  On March 16, 2010, the siting council granted CL&P's application with respect to the Springfield project, but denied it without prejudice as to the Manchester project.  On April 7, 2010, CL&P petitioned the siting council for reconsideration, and the siting council granted reconsideration.  On May 7, 2010, the plaintiffs, a group of individuals who own property in towns affected by the Springfield project, appealed to the trial court from the March 16, 2010 decision of the siting council.  Thereafter, on July 20, 2010, upon reconsideration, the siting council granted the application with respect to the Manchester project.  The trial court dismissed the plaintiffs’ appeal on the ground that the plaintiffs lacked standing because they were not aggrieved.  The plaintiffs appealed to the Appellate Court (139 Conn. App. 565), which held that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over the plaintiffs’ claims because they had not appealed from the siting council’s July 20, 2010 decision.  The court noted that General Statutes § 4-181a (a) (4) plainly provides that an agency decision made after reconsideration replaces the agency’s original decision as the sole final decision of the agency and accordingly that, here, the July 20, 2010 decision was the only decision from which the plaintiffs properly could have brought an appeal to Superior Court.  The Appellate Court noted that this conclusion was consistent with the language of General Statutes § 4-183 (c), which lists four alternative time frames during which an appeal of an agency decision may be brought and provides that a plaintiff shall appeal within whichever time frame is applicable and occurs latest.  The court ruled that § 4-183 (c) does not provide a plaintiff with options as to when an appeal may be taken and that, in any given circumstance, only one time frame to appeal will apply.  The court held that the statutory scheme therefore obligated the plaintiffs to appeal from the July 20, 2010 final decision made after reconsideration.  The Supreme Court granted the plaintiffs certification to appeal and will consider whether the Appellate Court properly determined that the trial court lacked jurisdiction because the plaintiffs failed to timely appeal from a final decision of the siting council pursuant to §§ 4-181a and 4-183.