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UNITED STATES AMERICA v. PENNSYLVANIA PUBLIC UTILITY COMMISSION. (06/30/58)

June 30, 1958

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLANT,
v.
PENNSYLVANIA PUBLIC UTILITY COMMISSION.



Appeal, No. 253, Jan. T., 1958, from judgment of Superior Court of Pennsylvania, Oct. T., 1955, No. 27, affirming orders of Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission at Investigation Docket No. 24, in case of United States of America v. Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. Judgment reversed.

COUNSEL

E. R. McConnell, with him Henry P. Sullivan, Assistant United States Attorney, and Harold K. Wood, United States Attorney, for appellant.

Jack F. Aschinger, Assistant Counsel, with him Thomas M. Kerrigan, Acting Counsel, for appellee.

Before Jones, C.j., Bell, Musmanno, Arnold, Jones and Cohen, JJ.

Author: Bell

[ 393 Pa. Page 539]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE BELL

This is an appeal by the United States from a unanimous opinion by the Superior Court affirming an Order of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission enjoining the Pennsylvania Railroad from charging the Federal Government railroad rates other than those filed in its tariffs with the Public Utility Commission.

The facts are these: In the Fall of 1953 the Pennsylvania Railroad quoted a special rate to the United States for the carriage of certain Air Force material from the Marietta Air Force Station in Pennsylvania to a commercial warehouse at Columbia, Pa., for storage. The material consisted of parachutes, engine parts, life rafts and similar equipment. The special rate was lower than the regular tariff rate published by the Railroad for commercial shipments of a similar nature. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission after investigation and hearings determined that the Railroad was transporting or offering to transport property for Federal Agencies in violation of §§ 303 and 304 of the Public Utility Law of Pennsylvania (Act of May 28, 1937, P.L. 1053, as amended, 66 PS 1142, 1143). Briefly stated, these two sections prohibit the carrier from carrying property for "any person, corporation or municipal corporation" at a rate less than the rates contained in tariffs published and filed with the Commission, or granting any such "person, corporation or municipal corporation" an unreasonable preference or advantage. The Railroad and the Government of the United States denied any violation of the Public Utility Law in quoting these lower rates to the United States. The Superior Court affirmed the Commission's action.

We shall summarize and briefly discuss the important contentions made by each party. The United

[ 393 Pa. Page 540]

States contends that it is not included within the definition of "person, corporation or municipal corporation", as employed in §§ 303 and 304 or elsewhere in the Act*fn* and consequently they do not apply to or include the Federal Government, either generally or under the theories of ejusdem generis and expressio unis. It is unnecessary to decide this question since we prefer to place our decision upon the broader ground hereinafter discussed.

The Superior Court analyzed the relevant portions of the statute and concluded that the comprehensive language used throughout the Act, especially in those sections relating to service, rates and tariffs, none of which excluded the United States, demonstrated that §§ 303 and 304 were not intended to restrict the jurisdiction of the Commission so as to exclude regulation of rates charged the United States. The Superior Court also stated (a) that a partial or fractional regulation of carriers varying on the basis of the nature of the shipper as compared to the nature of the shipment, was not intended by the Legislature, and (b) that this was especially true in light of the fact that the Public Utility Law prohibits unreasonable discrimination among shippers unless the inequality of charges or facilities is justified by a difference in circumstances or situation. The fact that the Government is the customer has been held not to be such a material difference: United States v. Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co., 297 Fed. 575.

Most important, the United States contends that the Public Utility Law if applied to the United States - even in intrastate commerce - would impose an unreasonable burden and an unreasonable delay on the ...


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