Norman H. Stark, MacDonald, Illig, Jones & Britton, Erie, for appellant.
Robert S. Bailey, Thomas, Shafer, Walker, Dornhaffer & Swick, Meadville, for appellees.
Frank B. Wilmarth, Barnett Satinsky, Asst. Counsel, Edward J. Morris, Counsel, Penna. Public Utility Commission, Harrisburg, for intervenor in Nos. 56 and 57.
Watkins, President Judge, and Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort and Spaeth, JJ. Van der Voort, J., concurs in the result. Spaeth, J., files a dissenting opinion. Jacobs and Hoffman, JJ., dissent.
[ 243 Pa. Super. Page 513]
This appeal questions the jurisdiction of a court of common pleas to issue an injunction against a utility company regulated by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC).
A PUC investigation of natural gas supplies resulted in an order to all gas service companies in February of 1972 providing, in pertinent part, that any company projecting a peak demand greater than peak supply was "prohibited from entering into any contract for serving
[ 243 Pa. Super. Page 514]
gas . . . ." This order was not immediately effective as to appellant National Fuel Gas (NFG), a natural gas service company, because it did not project a peak demand in excess of its peak supply.
During 1973 and 1974, appellees, who are real estate developers, were separately developing a mobile home park and a residential subdivision, and were given assurances by NFG, appellant, that it would supply natural gas to their developments. However, in December, 1974, NFG was notified of curtailments of gas supply by its suppliers; and, in January of 1974, NFG determined that the PUC order of February, 1972 now applied. Subsequently, NFG announced that no new service connections would be made after April 1, 1975.*fn1 Appellees, in the process of erecting new mobile and residential homes, separately filed complaints in equity with the Court of Common Pleas of Crawford County, praying that NFG be enjoined from denying them service to these new homes. NFG filed preliminary objections in each case, contending that the court was without jurisdiction, and alleging that jurisdiction was vested in the PUC. These preliminary objections were denied and, after full hearing by the lower court, orders were entered on May 27 and June 6, 1975 directing NFG to supply gas to appellees. No appeal was taken from these orders.
On July 23, 1975 the PUC issued an order to NFG which, in essence, directed it not to comply with the orders
[ 243 Pa. Super. Page 515]
of the lower court. Accordingly, NFG notified appellees that no service connections would be made despite the court's orders. Two contempt orders were then issued by the court against NFG on August 12, ...