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COMMUNITY CENTRAL ENERGY CORPORATION v. PENNSYLVANIA PUBLIC UTILITY COMMISSION (11/20/81)

decided: November 20, 1981.

COMMUNITY CENTRAL ENERGY CORPORATION, PETITIONER
v.
PENNSYLVANIA PUBLIC UTILITY COMMISSION, RESPONDENT



Appeal from the Order of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission in case of Community Central Energy Corporation (Steam Heat Division) v. Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, No. M-FACS0005.

COUNSEL

Paul A. Barrett, Nogi, O'Malley & Harris, P.C., for petitioner.

Gary D. Cohen, Assistant Counsel, with him Daniel P. Delaney, Assistant Counsel, and Joseph J. Malatesta, Jr., Chief Counsel, for respondent.

President Judge Crumlish, Jr. and Judges Rogers, Blatt, Williams, Jr. and Craig. Opinion by Judge Williams, Jr.

Author: Williams

[ 62 Pa. Commw. Page 519]

On January 25, 1979, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) issued an Order (Order No. 1) directing that the Community Central Energy Corporation (CCEC) refund to its customers $129,750.56 of excessive automatic fuel adjustment revenues. CCEC appealed Order No. 1 to this Court, alleging that the

[ 62 Pa. Commw. Page 520]

PUC had misinterpreted Section 307(e) of the Public Utility Law,*fn1 which read, in pertinent part, as follows:

Absent good reason being shown to the contrary, the commission shall, within 60 days following such hearing (on an automatic adjustment report), by order direct each such public utility to, over an appropriate 12-month period, refund to its patrons an amount equal to that by which its revenues received pursuant to such automatic adjustment clause exceeded the amount of such expense or class of expenses. . . .

The issue in that appeal, described by this Court as "very limited, but important,"*fn2 was whether Section 307(e) of the Public Utility Law granted discretion to the PUC not to order a full refund, if the utility made a showing of good reason for such a determination. In deciding that the statute did afford the PUC discretion to order a refund of less than the full amount of the overcollection of these revenues, this Court remanded the case to the PUC "for further proceedings and consideration . . ." in light of that interpretation of Section 307(e).

The PUC responded to the remand by reviewing the record made at the previous hearings, and, without further hearings, argument, or briefing, issued an Order (Order No. 2) on September 8, 1980, which reinstated the provisions of Order No. 1. CCEC has appealed Order No. 2 to this Court, alleging that the context of its issuance constitutes reversible error, in that the actions of the PUC did not comport with the mandate of this Court regarding further proceedings. The

[ 62 Pa. Commw. Page 521]

PUC argues, in opposition, that it conducted a comprehensive de novo review of the record made at the hearings preceding Order No. 1, and that its reinstatement of the provisions of Order No. 1 was based upon a valid exercise of its discretion. To buttress its position, the PUC notes that there was evidence in the record concerning justification for the overcollections, which had been admitted over PUC ...


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