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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA FOR ITSELF AND ON BEHALF ITS CITIZENS AND RESIDENTS v. DUQUESNE LIGHT COMPANY (11/24/76)

decided: November 24, 1976.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA FOR ITSELF AND ON BEHALF OF ITS CITIZENS AND RESIDENTS, APPELLANT,
v.
DUQUESNE LIGHT COMPANY, A PENNSYLVANIA CORPORATION, APPELLEE



COUNSEL

Robert P. Kane, Atty. Gen., Gerry J. Elman, Deputy Atty. Gen., Harrisburg, for appellant.

Charles E. Thomas, Jack F. Aschinger, Carroll F. Purdy, Metzger, Hafer, Keefer, Thomas & Wood, Harrisburg, for appellee.

Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy and Manderino, JJ. Nix, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Manderino

[ 469 Pa. Page 418]

OPINION OF THE COURT

This is an appeal from a final decree of the Commonwealth Court which dismissed a complaint filed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This complaint sought an injunction restraining appellee, Duquesne Light Company, from collecting allegedly illegal rates for electric service furnished to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and other customers of the appellee.

The appellee filed preliminary objections challenging the equity jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court. The parties then filed a stipulation of facts. Subsequently, the Commonwealth Court refused to issue a preliminary injunction, and sustained the appellee's preliminary objections resulting in the dismissal of the complaint. Commonwealth v. Duquesne Light Company, 21 Pa. Commw. 395, 346 A.2d 369 (1975).

According to the Commonwealth Court it was prohibited from issuing the requested injunction because of Section 1111 of the Public Utility Law, Act of May 28, 1937, P.L. 1053, as amended, 66 P.S. ยง 1441 (Supp.1974-75). (The Act of October 7, 1976 (P.L. /--, No. 215, formerly Senate Bill 1216, amending various portions of the Public Utility Law, does not affect this decision.) That section provides:

"No injunction shall issue modifying, suspending, staying, or annulling any order of the [Public Utility Commission] . . . except in a proceeding questioning the jurisdiction of the [Public Utility Commission], and then only after cause shown upon a hearing."

Appellant contends that the injunctive relief sought, if granted, would not affect an order of the Public Utility Commission, and thus the Commonwealth Court improperly granted appellee's preliminary objection.

[ 469 Pa. Page 419]

Prior to November 27, 1974, appellee was charging its customers for electric service according to an existing and approved rate schedule referred to as Supplement 14. On November 27, 1974, appellee filed with the Public Utility Commission three proposed rate schedules (referred to as Supplement 15, Supplement 16, and Supplement 17). Each of these three supplements proposed rates higher than Supplement 14, but each proposed different rates of increase. All three were to become effective on January 26, 1975. Prior to that date the Commission issued two orders simultaneously. One order mandated an investigation as to the fairness, reasonableness, justness, and lawfulness of all three tariff supplements and ordered a hearing. The second order issued suspended two of the tariff supplements, namely Supplement 16 and Supplement 17, but did not mention Supplement 15.

Since one of the Commission's orders was silent about Supplement 15, the appellant argues that there was no order of the Commission concerning Supplement 15, and therefore any injunction issued prohibiting the collection of the rates ...


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