Hernando County v. Florida Public Service Com'n, No. 95-2935

CourtCourt of Appeal of Florida (US)
Writing for the CourtDAVIS
Citation685 So.2d 48
Docket NumberNo. 95-2935
Decision Date12 December 1996
Parties21 Fla. L. Weekly D2625 HERNANDO COUNTY, Collier County, Sarasota County, Polk County and the Board of County Commissioners of Hillsborough County, Florida, Appellants, v. The FLORIDA PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION and Southern States Utilities, Inc., Appellees.

Page 48

685 So.2d 48
21 Fla. L. Weekly D2625
HERNANDO COUNTY, Collier County, Sarasota County, Polk County and the Board of County Commissioners of Hillsborough County, Florida, Appellants,
v.
The FLORIDA PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION and Southern States Utilities, Inc., Appellees.
No. 95-2935.
District Court of Appeal of Florida,
First District.
Dec. 12, 1996.
Rehearing Denied Jan. 22, 1997.

Page 49

Robert Bruce Snow, Hernando County, Brooksville; Mary Elizabeth Harlan, Polk County, Bartow; Donald R. Odom, Hillsborough County, Tampa; Thomas C. Palmer, Collier County, Naples; and Kathleen F. Schneider, Sarasota County, Sarasota, for Appellants.

Robert D. Vandiver, General Counsel; Christiana T. Moore, Associate General Counsel, Tallahassee, for Appellee/Florida Public Service Commission.

Arthur J. England, Jr. of Greenberg, Traurig, Hoffman, Lipoff, Rosen and Quentel, P.A., Miami; Brian P. Armstrong, Apopka; and Kenneth A. Hoffman and William B. Willingham of Rutledge, Ecenia, Underwood, Purnell & Hoffman, P.A., Tallahassee, for Appellee/ Southern States Utilities, Inc.

DAVIS, Judge.

Appellants Hernando County, Collier County, Sarasota County, Polk County, and the Board of County Commissioners of Hillsborough

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County, Florida, appeal a final order of the Public Service Commission (PSC), rendered July 21, 1995, determining that the PSC has jurisdiction over existing facilities and land of Southern States Utilities, Inc. (SSU) in Florida. The PSC decided that SSU's facilities constitute a "functionally related" statewide "system" whose "service" "transverses county boundaries," and that the PSC therefore had exclusive jurisdiction to regulate all of the facilities involved in this proceeding under the authority of section 367.171(7), Florida Statutes (1995). Because we conclude that the PSC misinterpreted the plain and unambiguous meaning of the terms "service" and "transverses" as used in the statute, and erred in concluding that the evidence presented was sufficient to establish that SSU's facilities form a "system," we reverse.

Under Chapter 367, the various counties of Florida retain jurisdiction to regulate water and wastewater utilities providing service to customers within the boundaries of each county. Such counties are called "non-jurisdictional counties," because the PSC does not have jurisdiction to regulate the utilities within their boundaries. A county, however, may elect to divest itself of jurisdiction and confer jurisdiction on the PSC. Such counties are called "jurisdictional counties," because the PSC has jurisdiction to regulate utilities in those counties. Under section 367.171(7), the PSC may exercise exclusive jurisdiction over utility facilities located in non-jurisdictional counties if the PSC makes a finding that such facilities are part of a system providing service which transverses county boundaries. 1 A system is defined by section 367.021(11) as "facilities and land used or useful in providing service and, upon a finding by the commission, may include a combination of functionally related facilities and land."

Southern States Utilities owns water and wastewater facilities in numerous counties throughout Florida. The order under review finds that the PSC has jurisdiction over all "existing" SSU facilities, but expressly declines to assert jurisdiction over future-acquired facilities. The PSC rejected the argument of the counties that it was necessary to demonstrate operational relationships between the facilities encompassed by the ruling in order to find that the facilities were functionally related and formed a system providing service which transverses county boundaries. Instead, the PSC relied primarily upon centralized organization out of the utility's Apopka office, as well as regional management, to provide the basis for its decision that these various facilities constitute a single system providing service which transverses county boundaries.

In particular, the PSC found that SSU's existing facilities in Florida are "functionally related" so as to form a system, based upon facts such as company wide financing, centralized purchasing, statewide telephone service through a single carrier, customer service provided with a toll free phone number, a centralized computer center for SSU's plants in the state, and transportation services through company-wide purchases of vehicles,...

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1 practice notes
  • Southern States Utilities v. Florida Public Service Com'n, No. 96-4227
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • June 10, 1998
    ...601 So.2d at 593. Similar jurisdictional disputes gave rise to the later decision in Hernando County v. Florida Public Service Commission, 685 So.2d 48, 52 (Fla. 1st DCA 1996) (stating that the PSC's jurisdiction hinges on whether "facilities forming the asserted 'system' exist in contiguou......
1 cases
  • Southern States Utilities v. Florida Public Service Com'n, No. 96-4227
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • June 10, 1998
    ...601 So.2d at 593. Similar jurisdictional disputes gave rise to the later decision in Hernando County v. Florida Public Service Commission, 685 So.2d 48, 52 (Fla. 1st DCA 1996) (stating that the PSC's jurisdiction hinges on whether "facilities forming the asserted 'system' exist in contiguou......

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