367 A.2d 195 (R.I. 1976), 76-252, Narragansett Elec. Co. v. Harsch

Docket Nº:76-252-M.P.
Citation:367 A.2d 195
Opinion Judge:PER CURIAM.
Party Name:NARRAGANSETT ELECTRIC COMPANY v. William W. HARSCH et al.
Attorney:Edwards & Angell, Edward F. Hindle, Deming E. Sherman, Providence, for petitioner., Julius C. Michaelson, Atty. Gen., R. Daniel Prentiss, Special Asst. Atty. Gen., Roberts & Willey, Ronald C. Markoff, Providence (for Rhode Island Consumers Council), for respondents. Edwards & Angell, Edward F. H...
Judge Panel:BEVILACQUA, C.J., and KELLEHER and DORIS, JJ., concur. PAOLINO, Justice (dissenting). JOSLIN, Justice (dissenting).
Case Date:November 30, 1976
Court:Supreme Court of Rhode Island
 
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Page 195

367 A.2d 195 (R.I. 1976)

NARRAGANSETT ELECTRIC COMPANY

v.

William W. HARSCH et al.

No. 76-252-M.P.

Supreme Court of Rhode Island.

November 30, 1976.

Edwards & Angell, Edward F. Hindle, Deming E. Sherman, Providence, for petitioner.

Julius C. Michaelson, Atty. Gen., R. Daniel Prentiss, Special Asst. Atty. Gen., Roberts & Willey, Ronald C. Markoff, Providence (for Rhode Island Consumers Council), for respondents.

ORDER

PER CURIAM.

This order supplements earlier orders entered in this controversy whereby on October

Page 196

1, 1976, a majority of this court denied the Narragansett Electric Company's (Narragansett) motion to suspend an order of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that in turn had suspended the effective date of a proposed rate increase sought by the utility. Narragansett's motion to suspend accompanied an amended petition for certiorari, which was filed with this court on September 3, 1976.

Earlier, in Rhode Island Consummers' Council v. Smith, 113 R.I. 384, 322 A.2d 17 (1974), we alluded to Narragansett's family tree. There we observed that Narragansett's common stock is owned by a holding company, the New England Electric System (NEES), and NEES also owns the New England Power Company (NEPCO). It is also conceded that NEES, through its other holdings, owns several electric companies which service retail customers in many of the New England states.

An examination of Narragansett's petitions, its various motions, and supporting documents reveals that on November 28, 1975, NEPCO filed an application with the Federal Power Commission (FPC) seeking to increase the cost of the power NEPCO sells to Narragansett and other subsidiaries because of the increased purchase cost of fuel. Two days later, December 1, Narragansett filed with the PUC a schedule of proposed rate increases, which reflected the increased rates that NEPCO would charge Narragansett once NEPCO's proposal was approved by the FPC. Narragansett sought to have its so-called Purchase Power Cost Adjustment (PPCA) become effective on January 1, 1976, or whenever the FPC approved the rate sought by NEPCO. The PUC, acting pursuant to G.L.1956 (1969 Reenactment) § 39-3-13, stayed the effective date of Narragansett's proposal for a period of 6 months from and after the effective date of any approval that the FPC might give to NEPCO's request.

On December 31, 1975, the FPC issued an order which authorized NEPCO to charge an increased rate pending the federal agency's consideration of its application. The effective date of the order was suspended for a period of 2 months. In its order the FPC made it clear that there had been no showing that the proposed increases were 'just and reasonable' and called for a refund in the event that NEPCO's proposal was rejected or modified. On March 1 NEPCO started charging Narragansett the increased rates. On March 23 the PUC held a hearing, at which time Narragansett presented testimony and various exhibits. Other hearings have been held since that time, and the PUC has further stayed the effective date of Narragansett's proposed increases. One of the parties who has appeared before the PUC and vigorously contested Narragansett's claim has been the Rhode Island Consumers' Council, a legal entity created by the Legislature for the express purpose of representing the public interest in all proceedings which seek an '* * * increase of rates or costs of services or commodities where regulated by law of the general assembly.' General Laws 1956 (1969 Reenactment) § 42-42-5.

On June 29 Narragansett filed with us its original petition for certiorari and its initial motion to suspend the PUC's suspension order. We heard oral arguments on the motion, and an order...

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