PETITION FOR REVIEW (PUBLIC UTILITY COMMISSION)
Ashley C. Schannauer, Asst. City Sol., D.R. Pellegrini, City Sol., City of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, for petitioner.
Charles F. Hoffman, Johnnie E. Sims, Regina L. Matz, Kathryn G. Sophy, Asst. Counsel, Bohdan R. Pankiw, Deputy Chief Counsel, John G. Alford, Acting Chief Counsel, Daniel P. Delaney, Chief Counsel, Pennsylvania Public Utility Com'n, Harrisburg, for respondent.
Thomas P. Gadsden, Alan L. Reed, Paul R. Bonney, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, Philadelphia, for Western Pa. Water Co.
Crumlish, Jr., President Judge, and Craig, Doyle, Barry, Palladino, McGinley and Smith, JJ.
[ 126 Pa. Commw. Page 669]
The City of Pittsburgh (city) has appealed an order of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC), dated July 1, 1988, which rejected the city's complaints against the Western Pennsylvania Water Company (WPW) alleging that WPW's rates illegally discriminate against ratepayers in the Greater Pittsburgh Area (defined below) as against WPW customers in WPW's other service areas. The city filed two complaints, the first challenging rates in effect in November, 1987, and the second complaint challenging the rates proposed by WPW in its request for a general rate increase then pending before the PUC.
The city's complaints look to section 1304 of the Public Utility Code, 66 Pa.C.S. § 1304, which prohibits public utilities from granting unreasonable preferences or advantages and concludes by stating:
No public utility shall establish or maintain any unreasonable difference as to rates, either as between localities or as between classes of service.
The issues in this case constitute a further evolution of the rate structure questions raised by the city against WPW, and decided adversely to the city in a PUC decision affirmed by this court in City of Pittsburgh v. Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (Pittsburgh I), 106 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 437, 526 A.2d 1243 (1987).
Because WPW now consists of water plants formerly held by sixteen separate corporations, merged in 1972, WPW rate cases before the PUC in 1973, 1978, 1980, 1983 and 1984 embodied PUC approval of a gradual consolidation of the sixteen plants or districts into six, as of a January 1985 order of the PUC. Pittsburgh I, 106 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. at 441-2, 526 A.2d at 1245-6.
An understanding of the geographical locations of the WPW districts is necessary to appreciate the city's rate
[ 126 Pa. Commw. Page 670]
structure position. Because WPW's component plants originally belonged to distinct companies in diverse locations within Western Pennsylvania, WPW's complex is quite different from a single interconnected water system. Appended as an exhibit to the city's brief is a map showing the distribution of the sixteen locations in Western Pennsylvania. Although the illegibility of the locational designations on that map limits its usefulness severely, it does illustrate that WPW presently consists of approximately ten service areas, which appear on the map as islands of varying size scattered throughout the western third of the Commonwealth.
In Pittsburgh I, this court affirmed a PUC decision which approved the consolidation of former districts to just two in number, but with six distinct rate zones within one of those two districts as follows:
2. Clarion-Punxsutawney Rate Zone
3. Connellsville-Uniontown ...