Does Public Utility Commission Have Exclusive Jurisdiction Over the Implementation of Public Utility Facilities ?
In Duquesne Light Co. v. Monroeville Borough, 449 Pa. 573, 298 A.2d 252 (1972), our Supreme Court addressed how to reconcile conflicts when a local government and the Public Utility Commission (PUC) have overlapping statutory authority.
The question in the case was whether the Borough of Monroeville (Borough) correctly applied the Borough Code when it enacted an ordinance prohibiting the installation of new overhead wires, cables and supporting poles and requiring the removal of existing overhead equipment by relocation or placement underground, or, whether the power to compel the placement of electrical wires underground was preempted by the Public Utility Code. Id. at 576, 298 A.2d at 254.
Duquesne Light maintained overhead power lines in one of the Borough's districts and was notified by the Borough to remove those wires and supporting poles, and to relocate them underground.
Duquesne Light refused to relocate its wires and, together with the PUC, filed an appeal arguing that the Borough Code was preempted by the Public Utility Code, which gave the PUC general regulatory powers. the trial court dismissed the appeal, thus sustaining the validity of the Borough's ordinance and the reasonableness of the underground wiring district created by the ordinance.
On appeal, the Supreme Court recognized "this Court has consistently held ... that the Public Utility Commission has exclusive regulatory jurisdiction over the implementation of public utility facilities." Id. at 580, 298 A.2d at 256.
It cited York Water Co. v. York, 250 Pa. 115, 118, 95 A. 396, 397 (1915), for the proposition that:
There can be no reasonable doubt that the legislative intention was to make the Public Service Act (precursor to the Public Utility Code) the supreme law of the state in the regulation and supervision of public service corporations, and, this being so, it follows as a necessary sequence that all laws inconsistent with the powers thus conferred must be held to be repealed or supplied thereby.Duquesne Light, 449 Pa. at 580, 298 A.2d at 256.
The Court also noted, however, that the Borough's ordinance creating the underground wire district was enacted pursuant to the specific power conferred upon boroughs by the General Assembly in the Borough Code.