Pennsylvania Gas Co v. Public Service Commission, Second Dist of State of New York, 330

Decision Date01 March 1920
Docket NumberNo. 330,330
Citation252 U.S. 23,64 L.Ed. 434,40 S.Ct. 279
PartiesPENNSYLVANIA GAS CO. v. PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION, SECOND DIST., OF STATE OF NEW YORK et al
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Messrs. John E. Mullin, of Kane, Pa., and Marion H. Fisher, of Jamestown, N. Y., for plaintiff in error.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 24-26 intentionally omitted] Messrs. Ledyard P. Hale, of Albany, N. Y., and Louis L. Thrasher, of Jamestown, N. Y., for defendants in error.

Mr. Justice DAY delivered the opinion of the Court.

This writ of error brings before us for consideration the question whether the Public Service Commission of the State of New York has the power to regulate rates at which natural gas shall be furnished by the Pennsylvania Gas Company, plaintiff in error, to consumers in the city of Jamestown in the state of New York. The Court of Appeals of New York (225 N. Y. 397, 122 N. E. 260) held that the Commission had such authority.

The statute of the state of New York, section 65 Public Service Commission Law (Laws 1910, c. 480), provides:

'Every gas corporation, every electrical corporation and every municipality shall furnish and provide such service, instrumentalities and facilities as shall be safe and adequate and in all respects just and reasonable. All charges made or demanded by any such gas corporation, electrical corporation or municipality for gas, electricity or any service rendered or to be rendered, shall be just and reasonable and not more than allowed by law or by order of the commission having jurisdiction. Every unjust or unreasonable charge made or demanded for gas, electricity or any such service, or in connection therewith, or in excess of that allowed by law or by the order of the commission is prohibited.'

Consumers of gas, furnished by the plaintiff in error in the city of Jamestown, New York, filed a complaint demanding a reduction of gas rates in that city. The Public Service Commission asserted its jurisdiction which, as we have said,w as sustained by the Court of Appeals of New York.

The federal question presented for our consideration involves the correctness of the contention of the plaintiff in error that the authority undertaken to be exercised by the commission, and sustained by the court, was an attempt under state authority to regulate interstate commerce, and violative of the constitutional power granted to Congress over commerce among the states. The facts are undisputed. The plaintiff in error, the Pennsylvania Gas Company, is a corporation organized under the laws of the state of Pennsylvania and engaged in transmitting and selling natural gas in the state of New York and Pennsylvania. It transports the gas by pipe lines about fifty miles in length from the source of supply in the state of Pennsylvania into the state of New York. It sells and delivers gas to consumers in the city of Jamestown, in the town of Ellicott, and in the village of Falconer, all in Chatauqua county, New York. It also sells and delivers natural gas to consumers in the cities of Warren, Corry and Erie in Pennsylvania.

We think that the transmission and sale of natural gas produced in one state, transported by means of pipe lines and directly furnished to consumers in another state is interstate commerce within the principles of the cases already determined by this court. West v. Kansas Natural Gas Co., 221 U. S. 229, 31 Sup. Ct. 564, 55 L. Ed. 716, 35 L. R. A. (N. S.) 1193; Haskell v. Kansas Natural Gas Co., 224 U. S. 217, 32 Sup. Ct. 442, 56 L. Ed. 738; Western Union Telegraph Co. v. Foster, 247 U. S. 105, 38 Sup. Ct. 438, 62 L. Ed. 1006, 1 A. L. R. 1278.

This case differs from Public Utilities Commission v. Landon, 249 U. S. 236, 39 Sup. Ct. 268, 63 L. Ed. 577, wherein we dealt with the piping of natural gas from one state to another, and its sale to independent local gas companies in the receiving state, and held that the retailing of gas by the local companies to their consumers was intrastate commerce and not a continuation of interstate commerce, although the mains of the local companies receiving and distributing the gas to local consumers were connected permanently with those of the transmitting company. Under the circumstances set forth in that case we held that the interstate movement ended when the gas passed into the local mains; that the rates to be charged by the local companies had but an indirect effect upon interstate commerce and, therefore, the matter was subject to local regulation.

In the instant case the gas is transmitted directly from the source of supply in Pennsylvania to the consumers in the cities and towns of New York and Pennsylvania, above mentioned. Its transmission is direct, and without intervention of any sort between the seller and the buyer. The transmission is continuous and single and is in our opinion, a transmission in interstate commerce, and there fore subject to applicable constitutional limitations which govern the states in dealing with matters of the character of the one now before us.

The general principle is well established and often asserted in the decisions of this court that the state may not...

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