In re Vance

Decision Date03 November 1925
Docket Number15802,16143.
Citation241 P. 164,115 Okla. 8,1925 OK 900
PartiesIn re VANCE et al. v. SCOTT et al. OKLAHOMA NATURAL GAS CO.
CourtOklahoma Supreme Court

Syllabus by the Court.

The Corporation Commission has no authority to require a public utility to furnish natural gas to people living outside the city limits where the utility has never professed or undertaken to serve the people of that community generally even though it may appear that the gas company has a pipe line in close proximity to the property of such persons.

The highways of this state are owned by the abutting property owners, subject only to an easement in the public to use the same for highway purposes, and under section 7904, C. S 1921, the gas company is required, upon the request of abutting property owners, to furnish gas connections to such property owners where the pipe line is constructed along the side of the road on which such persons' property abuts but the gas company is not required to furnish connections or deliver gas to persons who may own property abutting the highway but whose property is not on the side of the road along which the pipe line is constructed.

Commissioners' Opinion, Division No. 5.

Appeal from Corporation Commission.

Proceedings by A. J. Vance and others against the Oklahoma Natural Gas Company, case No. 15802, and by Mrs. W. H. Scott and others against Oklahoma Natural Gas Company, case No. 16143. From an order of the Corporation Commission, directing defendant to furnish natural gas to the plaintiffs, the defendant appeals. Cases consolidated on appeal. Reversed and remanded, with directions.

Ames Lowe, Richardson & Cochran, of Oklahoma City, for plaintiff in error.

E. S. Ratliff, of Oklahoma City, for Corporation Commission.

PINKHAM C.

The two above styled and numbered cases are appeals from an order of the Corporation Commission requiring the Oklahoma Natural Gas Company, plaintiff in error, to make connections and render service from its pipe line in territory near the limits of Oklahoma City, but outside of the corporate limits of said city.

In case No. 15802 the complainants owned property abutting the highway on the west side of such highway, and a two-inch pipe line of the respondent is constructed along the east side of such highway. The property of the complainant in case No. 16143 is not adjacent to the highway along which the respondent's pipe line is constructed, but is some 1,500 or 1,600 feet from the pipe line.

There is no material dispute as to the facts and the questions presented for determination by this court are the same in both cases, and the parties interested have agreed that the cases might be consolidated, and the order of consolidation was, by order of this court, entered on February 24, 1925.

The assignments of error are the same in each case, which are to the effect, first, that the order of the commission is not supported by the evidence, and is therefore contrary to law; and, second, that under the facts and circumstances existing the order is violative of section 7, article 2, of the Constitution of the state of Oklahoma, and of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, in that it deprives the company of its property without due process of law.

The essential facts may be briefly stated: In case No. 15802 each of the complainants testified, in substance, that they owned property outside of the city limits of Oklahoma City; that they had made application to the Oklahoma Natural Gas Company for service, and that each of them had been refused service; that a pipe line of the Oklahoma Natural Gas Company ran along the highway on which their property abuts, but this line is east of the center of said highway, and the property of each complainant is on the west side of said road; that the complainants did not own property crossed by the pipe line of the Oklahoma Natural Gas Company; and that neither of them were patrons of the Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company at the time the Oklahoma Natural Gas Company took over the line referred to.

The testimony further shows that some years ago the Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company, which now distributes gas in Oklahoma City, furnished gas to a few persons living along the road in front of the property now belonging to the complainants in case No.

15802, and that, at the time the arrangement was made under which the Oklahoma Natural Gas Company agreed to deliver gas to the Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company at the city gate in 1921, the latter company discontinued its service to these parties.

It further appears that the Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company was not furnishing gas to these patrons under any franchise, and for that reason was not compelled to furnish gas for any definite period of time, and that it was authorized to discontinue the service. It was, however, agreed between the Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company and the Oklahoma Natural Gas Company and the Corporation Commission that the property which was then being served by the Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company would be served in the future by the Oklahoma Natural Gas Company, but it was also agreed betwen the Oklahoma Natural Gas Company and the Corporation Commission that this agreement to serve these people living in the locality involved by the Oklahoma Natural Gas Company would not be considered as establishing an undertaking on the part of the Oklahoma Natural Gas Company to serve other people of that community.

The testimony also shows that the Oklahoma Natural Gas Company has never undertaken to serve any other people of that community, and that it is not in the business of furnishing gas to domestic consumers outside of the limits of cities and towns. It further appears that the complainants in both cases were not among the few people referred to to whom gas had been furnished by the Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company.

It must be conceded that, if, in the instant case, the Oklahoma Natural Gas Company has undertaken to furnish gas to persons in the situation and circumstances of the complainants herein, the Corporation Commission has, without question, authority to regulate such service and to fix rates and to require service to be rendered when the same is within the scope of the obligation of the corporation.

It is the contention of counsel for the commission that in each of the instant cases the Oklahoma Natural Gas Company has undertaken to render service to a number of persons of this particular community, and that the complainants were similarly situated to those who are now being served by the company and therefore the Corporation Commission has authority to require the gas company to furnish gas to these complainants.

The testimony shows, without dispute, that certain consumers are served from the pipe line in question, but that these consumers consist, first, of persons whose property was formerly served by the Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company, and who continued to be served under an agreement between the two companies and the Corporation Commission; and, second, those whose property abuts the side of the highway upon which the company's pipe line is laid.

In case No. 15802 the commission found that-

"The testimony in this case does not show that Oklahoma Natural Gas Company has connected its lines to any consumers, other than those received from the Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company, whose property is located on the opposite side of the road from that which the company's pipe line occupies. The respondent admits, however, that they are under obligations to render gas service to any party along their transmission lines who owns or occupies property adjacent to and abutting on the side of the road or highway upon which the line of the respondent is laid."

The testimony further shows, without conflict, that neither of the complainants in either of the cases belong to either of the classes referred to, and that the property of complainants has never been served by the Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company.

In case No. 15802 the property of complainants abuts the highway on the west, but the pipe line of the Oklahoma Natural Gas Company runs along the east side of the road or highway. In case No. 16143 the property of complainant does not abut the highway at all, and is approximately 1,500 feet from the highway.

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