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ONDROVIC v. JAMES CITY GAS COMPANY (12/14/67)

decided: December 14, 1967.

ONDROVIC
v.
JAMES CITY GAS COMPANY, APPELLANT



Appeal from order of Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission No. 18112, in re complaint of citizens of James City et al. v. James City Gas Company.

COUNSEL

H. Ray Pope, Jr., with him Ralph N. DeCamp, for appellant.

Dominic J. Ferraro, Assistant Counsel, with him Joseph C. Bruno, Chief Counsel, for Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, appellee.

Ervin, P. J., Watkins, Montgomery, Jacobs, Hoffman, and Spaulding, JJ. (Wright, J., absent). Opinion by Ervin, P. J.

Author: Ervin

[ 211 Pa. Super. Page 270]

This is an appeal from orders of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, dated July 25, 1966 and August 21, 1967, sustaining complaints against appellant, James City Gas Company, on inadequacy of service, and directing the appellant either (1) to voluntarily transfer its 21 customers to any public utility able to furnish service in the area, or (2) to completely rebuild and replace its gas distribution system, in accordance with approved engineering standards. We granted a supersedeas which is presently in effect pending disposition of the appeal. The original complainants have not intervened in this appeal.

Appellant is a small family owned utility certificated to furnish gas service in James City, Highland Township, Elk County, and Wetmore Township, McKean County. In 1960 it had 109 domestic customers, which by 1964 were reduced to 18. Two domestic and one commercial customer, added in 1965, made a total of 21 customers in 1966.

A complaint was filed June 8, 1965 against appellant by a group of eleven individuals, including an employee of the competing United Natural Gas Co., alleging failure to maintain proper facilities, and inadequate

[ 211 Pa. Super. Page 271]

    service. Six domestic customers testified that service to their homes was unsatisfactory; that gas pressure was too low to maintain cooking ranges and gas heaters, resulting in frequent interruptions in service. Eleven other witnesses testified that unreliable service required them to use substitute service, such as bottled gas and electricity, for cooking and hot water heating, although eight of these testified they would reinstate gas if adequate service was available. Testimony of Mr. Eddinger, on behalf of complainants, former maintenance employee of appellant for ten years prior to 1963, that appellant's system was in poor condition, was exceedingly general. He did not know whether any pipe replacements had been made since his employment ended in 1963.

E. H. James, president of appellant, stated gas was obtained by pumping from the company's nine wells located five miles from James City. In summary, appellant's president admitted to numerous interruptions in service in the past, but contended that appellant's distribution plant was currently in good operating condition.

In its order of July 25, 1966 directing appellant to sell out or rebuild its entire system, the commission stated: "The Commission has knowledge that the major portion of respondent's existing gas production, transmission, and distribution facilities now serving the James City area have been in continuous operation since about 1910 and that such facilities, after more than 55 years, are probably in a deteriorated condition and could fail at any moment at any given location."

Following this order, appellant filed a petition for rehearing, to permit, inter alia, the testimony of a qualified gas engineer to refute the commission's findings as to the inadequacy of the transmission and distribution system. The commission ordered a further ...


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