Appeal from the Order of the Public Utility Commission in case of Graver Brothers v. Lehighton Water Authority, No. C-822975.
Roger N. Nanovic, with him George T. Dydynsky, for petitioners.
Robert P. Meehan, Assistant Counsel, with him Louise R. Knight, Deputy Chief Counsel, and Charles F. Hoffman, Chief Counsel, for respondent.
John Deutsch, for intervenor.
Judges Rogers, Barry and Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Rogers.
[ 79 Pa. Commw. Page 529]
This is the appeal of the developers of a residential subdivision served by a water authority created under the Municipality Authorities Act of 1945*fn1 from an order of the Public Utility Commission (PUC), dismissing, for lack of commission jurisdiction, their complaint that the authority had wrongfully disconnected water meters in residences located in their development with the purpose, apparently of charging the appellants, instead of the householders, for the water supplied. The appellant's subdivision is located outside the corporate limits of the municipality which created the water authority.
The question is: Does the PUC have jurisdiction to determine questions of the reasonableness of rates
[ 79 Pa. Commw. Page 530]
fixed or of the services provided by a municipal authority beyond the limits of the municipality which created it or are such questions committed to the exclusive jurisdiction of the court of common pleas of the county where the authority's project is located? Having concluded that the PUC correctly answered this question by declaring that the exclusive jurisdiction of such questions is vested in the common pleas courts, we will affirm the PUC's order.
Public utility regulation in Pennsylvania is presently provided by the Act of July 1, 1978, P.L. 598. Section 1 of that Act is the Public Utility Code, a codification*fn2 without substantial change of the previously existing provision for utility regulation, the Public Utility Law, Act of May 28, 1937, P.L. 1053. Section 2 of the Act of July 1, 1978, effected the repeal of the Public Utility Law. Both the new Public Utility Code and the repeal of the old Public Utility Law were effective 60 days from July 1, 1978.
The Public Utility Law, Act of May 28, 1937, P.L. 1053, defined a public utility as a "person or corporation" owning or operating utility services to the public (Section 2(17)). A corporation was defined as not including "municipal corporations" (Section 2(9)); but a "municipal corporation" was defined as including a "public authority" (Section 2(15)). Section 301 of the Public Utility Law provided that the rates of public utilities should generally be subject to PUC regulation; provided, that only service provided by a municipal corporation beyond its corporate limits should be subject to PUC regulation. In State ...