7th Circuit orders arbitration at NextEra Point Beach

A three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has ruled that a dispute between the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 2150 and NextEra Energy Point Beach should be decided through arbitration.

The appeals court order issued Aug. 11 reversed an earlier decision by a U.S. District Court judge in Eastern Wisconsin. NextEra Point Beach is the NextEra Energy (NYSE: NEE) subsidiary in charge of the two Point Beach nuclear units in Manitowoc County, Wisc.

Both Point Beach units are pressurized water reactors (PWRs) with a summer operating capacity of roughly 600 MW.

The IBEW local had sued the plant to compel arbitration after a union employee was discharged, in his opinion, without just cause. The nuclear plant opposed arbitration on various grounds and was successful before the federal district court.

The 7th Circuit panel, however, saw things differently. “We find that the dispute between the parties falls squarely within the coverage of the arbitration clause, and we reverse,” the appeals court said in a 12-page ruling.

In February 2012, union-affiliated employee Jonathan Hofstra reported to his Point Beach supervisor that he had been arrested and criminally charged with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. NextEra revoked Hofstra’s unescorted access privileges effective one week after being informed of the charge by the employee. NextEra terminated Hofstra four days later after revoking his access.

In April of that year, the union filed a grievance and requested that Hofstra’s access privileges be reinstated. NextEra denied the grievance and refused to arbitrate. The IBEW subsequently filed suit in federal court to compel arbitration.

The district court judge, however, agreed with NextEra’s position, which set the stage for the appeals court case. The case was argued before the 7th Circuit on June 5 and the decision was rendered Aug. 11.

The case, IBEW v NextEra Point Beach No. 13-3851, was decided by 7th Circuit judges Diane Wood, Frank Easterbrook and Michael Kanne.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.