In the instant appeal, Gene P. Bonvillian, Assessor of Terrebonne Parish, and Rich Bailey, Assessor of Ouachita Parish, ("the assessors") challenge the trial court's August 9, 2007 judgment granting a preliminary injunction in favor of plaintiffs, ANR Pipeline Company, Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, and Southern Natural Gas Company ("plaintiffs"), and enjoining the Louisiana Tax Commission (the "Commission") from holding revaluation hearings on plaintiffs' public service pipelines. For the reasons set forth below, we vacate the trial court's judgment and remand for further proceedings.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
The history of this case dates back to October 2000, when the first appeal in the case was lodged with this court. In ANR Pipeline Co., v. Louisiana Tax Com'n, 2000-2251 (La.App. 1 Cir. 12/22/00), 774 So.2d 1261, writ denied, 2001-0250 (La.4/20/01), 790 So.2d 633, we considered that very appeal and issued a ruling concerning ANR's challenge of the ad valorem taxes assessed against its public service pipelines. There have been numerous other appeals and writ applications in this matter since that date, including the judgment previously rendered by this court in ANR Pipeline Co. v. Louisiana Tax Com'n, 2005-1142 (La.App. 1 Cir. 9/7/05), 923 So.2d 81, writ denied, 2005-2372 (La.3/17/06), 925 So.2d 547, cert. denied, 549 U.S. 822, 127 S.Ct. 157, 166 L.Ed.2d 38 (2006) ("ANR VI") and our most recent decision rendered in ANR Pipeline Co. v. Louisiana Tax Com'n, 2008-1148 (La.App. 1 Cir. 10/17/08), 997 So.2d 92, 2008 WL 4603393 ("ANR VII"). While the underlying facts of this case are well known to both this court and the parties herein, a brief review of the facts and procedural history preceding the August 9, 2007 judgment is necessary for a complete understanding of the court's analysis that follows.
Plaintiffs provide natural gas transportation, storage, and balancing services in Louisiana and in interstate commerce and are regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory
During the years 1994 through 2003 ("the tax years at issue"), a number of intrastate natural gas, oil, and other liquid pipeline companies were regulated by the Louisiana Public Service Commission as provided in La. R.S. 30:551(A) and qualified as public service companies under La. R.S. 47:1851(K). The pipelines of these companies, however, were assessed by local assessors at fifteen percent (15%) of fair market value, while the public service properties of plaintiffs were assessed at twenty-five percent (25%) of fair market value.
For each tax year at issue, plaintiffs paid their ad valorem taxes under protest. Specifically, plaintiffs challenged that portion of taxes assessed in excess of fifteen percent (15%) of fair market value. Plaintiffs then filed individual suits against the Commission for declaratory judgment and for refunds of the taxes paid under protest. Plaintiffs argued that the assessed values of their properties were calculated at twenty-five percent (25%) of fair market value, while the assessed values of other pipeline public service taxpayers that fall within the statutory definition of pipeline companies were calculated at fifteen percent (15%) of fair market value. Plaintiffs asserted that this disparate treatment violated the uniformity requirement of the Louisiana Constitution, the equal protection and due process clauses of the Louisiana and United States Constitutions, and the commerce clause of the United States Constitution. Plaintiffs also alleged that La. R.S. 47:1851(K) is unconstitutional. These suits were consolidated for trial.
Following a bench trial in early 2005, the trial court rendered declaratory judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, finding that the actions of the Commission in the administration of Louisiana's ad valorem tax scheme, as it pertained to plaintiffs' public service pipelines, violated the equal protection and due process clauses of the Louisiana and United States Constitutions. The trial court pretermitted decision on the constitutionality of La. R.S. 47:1851(K) and (M) and remanded the matter to the Commission with instructions that the Commission require the parish assessors to assess the public service pipelines of the plaintiffs for each of the tax years at issue and calculate taxes based on fifteen percent
In ANR VI, this court affirmed the declaratory judgment rendered in favor of plaintiffs, both as to the constitutional violations and as to the remedy involving the parish assessors and the reassessment of the plaintiffs' public service pipelines for tax purposes. With regard to the refunds, if any, that might be issued following reassessment, this court noted as follows:
ANR VI, 2005-1142 at 31, 923 So.2d at 99-100.
When the Louisiana Supreme Court denied plaintiffs' writ application in ANR VI, our decision therein became final, prompting a series of orders by the Commission relating to the reassessment of plaintiffs' properties by the various parish assessors. Pursuant to the Commission's orders, the parish assessors began the reassessments. Although there is some dispute as to how many were accomplished within the six month deadline provided for in ANR VI, it is clear that many were completed.
In response to the reassessments, plaintiffs lodged 359 protests with the various parish Boards of Review challenging the correctness of the reassessments. After receiving a number of adverse determinations from the parish Boards of Review, plaintiffs appealed the assessments to the Commission. Shortly after lodging those appeals with the Commission, plaintiffs filed a motion to enforce judgment with the trial court alleging that by failing to timely complete the reassessment and refund process, the Commission had lost jurisdiction to conduct any further proceedings in this matter. The parish assessors subsequently filed a petition of intervention in support of the Commission and an opposition to plaintiffs' motion to enforce judgment. In response thereto, plaintiffs objected to the petition of intervention on the grounds that it did not state a cause of action. In the alternative, plaintiffs moved that the intervention be dismissed as untimely. These matters, along with the motion to enforce judgment, were brought for hearing before the trial court on June 13, 2007. The trial court rendered judgment
According to the record, the revaluation hearings were scheduled to begin on June 19, 2007, before the Commission. On June 18, 2007, plaintiffs obtained a temporary restraining order enjoining the Commission from conducting the hearings, and the application for preliminary injunction was set for hearing on June 25, 2007. Following a hearing on June 26, 2007,
A preliminary injunction may be issued during the pendency of an action for a permanent injunction on a prima facie showing that the petitioner is entitled to the relief sought, that he will prevail on the merits, and that the potential losses are those for which money damages are inadequate or are incapable of measurement by pecuniary standards. See La. Code Civ. P. art. 3601; Chandler v. State, Dept. of Transp. & Development, 2002-1410, p. 6 (La.App. 1 Cir. 3/28/03), 844 So.2d 905, 909. In Chandler, this court addressed the discretionary nature of injunctions as follows:
Chandler, 2002-1410 at pp. 6-7, 844 So.2d at 909 (citations omitted).
On appeal, the assessors argue that plaintiffs have failed to prove that they will suffer irreparable injury if the Commission conducts the revaluation hearings regarding their appeals challenging the correctness of the reassessments of their public service pipelines. The assessors also maintain that because the preliminary injunction under review was entered after the trial was concluded, a judgment was rendered, and an appeal was taken, the trial court was divested of jurisdiction in the underlying proceedings, and it was therefore, a per se abuse of discretion by the trial court to enter a post-trial preliminary injunction in proceedings in which a permanent injunction was not even requested. In response, plaintiffs assert that the assessors lack standing to challenge the preliminary injunction because their attempt to intervene in these proceedings was denied.
Based on our extensive review of the instant record, including the transcript of the hearing on the preliminary injunction, it is clear that the trial court issued the preliminary injunction based on its misinterpretation
For the above and foregoing reasons, we vacate the preliminary injunction issued by the trial court on August 9, 2007, and remand the matter to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion and our opinion in ANR VII. All costs associated with this appeal are assessed against plaintiffs, ANR Pipeline Company, Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, and Southern Natural Gas Company.