Appeal from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County, No. 466 Commonwealth Docket, 1962, Equity No. 2556, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Glen Alden Corporation and Pennsupreme Coal Company.
William M. Gross, Assistant Attorney General, with him Joseph L. Cohen, Assistant Attorney General, Edward Friedman, Deputy Attorney General, and Walter E. Alessandroni, Attorney General, for Commonwealth, appellant.
Richard P. Brown, Jr., with him Franklin B. Gelder and William E. Zeiter, for appellee.
Louis G. Feldmann, with him Anthony J. Ciotola, for appellee.
Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Cohen. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Jones. Mr. Chief Justice Bell and Mr. Justice Roberts join in this opinion.
This is an appeal by the plaintiff, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, from a judgment for defendants, Glen
Alden Corporation and Pennsupreme Coal Company, entered on the basis of the defendants' preliminary objections to the lower court's equity jurisdiction.
The Commonwealth seeks an order requiring defendants to extinguish or remove burning coal refuse piles, allegedly maintained by them. The Commonwealth asserts that they are public nuisances because they release noxious gases which adversely affect the health and well-being of the residents of Ashley and Hanover Townships in Luzerne County. In our opinion, equity has no jurisdiction to inquire into this controversy because of the existence of the Air Pollution Control Act,*fn1 and, accordingly, the complaint should have been dismissed.
It has been held that equity's jurisdiction to restrain a public nuisance rests upon § 1 of the Act of Feb. 14, 1857, P. L. 39, 17 P.S. § 283, which extends to all the common pleas courts of the Commonwealth the equity jurisdiction expressly conferred on common pleas courts of Philadelphia County by the Act of June 16, 1836, P. L. 784, § 13, 17 P.S. § 282, to prevent or restrain "the commission or continuance of acts contrary to law and prejudicial to the interests of the community. . . ." Commonwealth ex rel. Shumaker v. New York & Pennsylvania Company, Inc., 367 Pa. 40, 52, 79 A.2d 439, 446 (1951); Commonwealth ex rel. v. Soboleski, 303 Pa. 53, 55, 153 Atl. 898, 899 (1931); Commonwealth v. Kennedy, 240 Pa. 214, 220-221, 87 Atl. 605, 606 (1913). But we have frequently decided that equity has no jurisdiction to inquire into a controversy where to do so would obviate a statutory procedure provided by the Legislature for its resolution. See, e.g., Taylor v. Moore, 303 Pa. 469, 154 Atl. 799 (1931). This salutory result is dictated by the Act of March 21, 1806, P. L.
, 4 Sm. L. 326, § 13, 46 P.S. § 156 which provides that "[i]n all cases where a remedy is provided, . . . or anything directed to be done by any act or acts of assembly of this commonwealth, the directions of the said acts shall be strictly pursued. . . ." Accordingly, if the Air Pollution Control Act, supra, provides a framework for the resolution of the problem involved in Commonwealth's complaint equity may not inquire into the dispute, notwithstanding the fact that the complaint may state a cause of action in public nuisance, ...