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DAVID M. BARASCH v. PENNSYLVANIA PUBLIC UTILITY COMMISSION (12/22/89)

decided: December 22, 1989.

DAVID M. BARASCH, CONSUMER ADVOCATE, PETITIONER,
v.
PENNSYLVANIA PUBLIC UTILITY COMMISSION, RESPONDENT



PETITION FOR REVIEW PENNSYLVANIA PUBLIC UTILITY COMMISSION

COUNSEL

Christine M. Maloni, Harrisburg, with her, Pamela Bishop Sarvey and Scott J. Rubin, Asst. Consumer Advocates, and David M. Barasch, Consumer Advocate, for petitioner.

Kevin J. Moody, Asst. Counsel, with him, Bohdan R. Pankiw, Deputy Chief Counsel, Harrisburg, and John F. Povilaitis, Chief Counsel, for respondent.

Anthony C. Lomma, Scranton, for intervenors, Rivercrest Public Service Water Corp., Elmbrook Water Co. and Hamilton Water Co.

Gregory R. Neuhauser, with him, Thomas J. Sniscak, Malatesta, Hawke & McKeon, Harrisburg, for amici curiae, Pennsylvania Rural Water Ass'n and Rural Sewer Utilities Group.

Craig, Barry and Colins, JJ.

Author: Barry

The Office of Consumer Advocate (Consumer Advocate) has petitioned this Court to review orders of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) granting general rate increases to three water utilities. The Consumer Advocate submits that the procedural treatment of these three water rate cases before the PUC constituted violations of due process as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and provisions of the law of this Commonwealth delegating to the PUC administrative authority to consider the general rate increases sought by utilities. We find that the procedural treatment of these cases constituted an infraction of our law. We do not pass on the question of whether there has

[ 130 Pa. Commw. Page 301]

    been a violation of the U.S. Constitution. We also do not pass on the question of whether the PUC's potential adoption of the settlement negotiated among the parties here would inevitably result in impermissible interim ratemaking. There being no final order adopting the parties' joint settlement proposal, we conclude that this question is not ripe for our disposition at this time.

The Consumer Advocate's petitions in each of the three water rate cases were consolidated for argument and disposition by this Court. In addition to the water companies, the PUC, and the Consumer Advocate, we have entertained briefing, argument, and post argument submissions by the Pennsylvania Rural Water Association and Rural Sewer Utilities Group as amici curiae.

The three water companies, Elmbrook Water Company (Elmbrook), Hamilton Water Company (Hamilton) and Rivercrest Public Service Water Corporation (Rivercrest), each filed a general rate increase case with the PUC in 1988. Elmbrook sought a 7.25% increase in annual revenues, Hamilton requested a 9.7% increase, and Rivercrest made its case for a 16.3% increase. All these companies are wholly owned subsidiaries of National Utilities, Inc. of Scranton, the owner of several other water and sewer utilities throughout Pennsylvania.

The Consumer Advocate challenged these rate increases and, in the case of Rivercrest, twenty-nine formal complaints were also lodged by individual ratepayers.

The PUC granted the rate increases sought by Elmbrook and Hamilton respectively in orders issued on October 28, 1988. The PUC similarly issued an order on November 7, 1988 retroactively instituting the rate increase sought by Rivercrest effective October 8, 1988. In each of these orders the PUC indicated that its investigation and analysis of the tariff filing and supporting data as presented by the water companies resulted in a conclusion that the rates sought were not unjust or unlawful. However, in ...


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