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CITY ERIE v. PENNSYLVANIA PUBLIC UTILITY COMMISSION AND TOWNSHIP HARBORCREEK (03/12/79)

decided: March 12, 1979.

THE CITY OF ERIE, PETITIONER
v.
THE PENNSYLVANIA PUBLIC UTILITY COMMISSION AND THE TOWNSHIP OF HARBORCREEK, RESPONDENTS



Appeal from the Order of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission in case of Complaint of Harborcreek Township v. City of Erie, Complaint Docket No. 21906.

COUNSEL

Marilyn C. Fisher, with her Lawrence L. Kinter, City Solicitor, for petitioner.

Eugene J. Brew, Jr., with him Dale & Brew, for respondent, Township of Harborcreek.

Kenneth S. Siegel, Assistant Counsel, with him Shirley Rae Don, Assistant Counsel, and Kathleen Herzog Larkin, Chief Counsel, for respondent, Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

Judges Crumlish, Jr., Mencer and Craig, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Mencer.

Author: Mencer

[ 41 Pa. Commw. Page 195]

The City of Erie (Erie) has appealed an order of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (Commission) ordering Erie to extend its municipal water service into specified areas of the Township of Harborcreek (Harborcreek). We reverse and remand for a further hearing.

Because of water pollution and shortages in certain areas of Harborcreek, affecting approximately 174 family dwellings, Harborcreek filed a complaint with the Commission on August 20, 1976, seeking an extension of Erie's current service in the township to the affected areas.*fn1 At a hearing before an administrative law judge, in which the staff of the Commission intervened, Erie resisted the requested extension, contending that the Commission lacked the authority to order Erie to extend its water lines and that the increased demand caused by the additional residences would have a deleterious effect on its own

[ 41 Pa. Commw. Page 196]

    water system. The administrative law judge, and subsequently the Commission, found, however, not only that it did have the authority to order the extension but that the proposed extension was reasonable and would not seriously affect present Erie customers. Upon entry of the Commission's order, Erie appealed to this Court.

The primary issue on appeal is the authority of the Commission to order a municipality operating outside of its territorial boundaries to extend its water service beyond its certificated area of service.

The Commission's first argument is based on our decision in Phoenixville v. Public Utility Commission, 3 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 56, 280 A.2d 471 (1971). In Phoenixville, we held that, when a municipality renders uncertificated extraterritorial service, the Commission has the authority to order extensions of the extraterritorial service as long as the ordered extensions are reasonable. See also Altoona v. Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, 168 Pa. Superior Ct. 246, 77 A.2d 740 (1951). Therefore, if Erie is rendering water service outside of the area delineated by its certificate of public convenience, the Commission has the authority to order reasonable extensions of that service.

Relying on the findings in two previous Commission decisions,*fn2 the administrative law judge found that Erie was providing water service outside of its area of certification and that the Commission therefore had the authority to order the extension pursuant to Phoenixville. Erie contends, however, that the law judge's reliance on matters which were never properly ...


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