SAWNEE EMC v. PUBLIC SERV. COM'N, No. S00G0945.

CourtSupreme Court of Georgia
Writing for the CourtTHOMPSON, Justice.
Citation273 Ga. 702,544 S.E.2d 158
Decision Date19 March 2001
Docket NumberNo. S00G0945.
PartiesSAWNEE ELECTRIC MEMBERSHIP CORPORATION v. GEORGIA PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION et al.

544 S.E.2d 158
273 Ga. 702

SAWNEE ELECTRIC MEMBERSHIP CORPORATION
v.
GEORGIA PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION et al

No. S00G0945.

Supreme Court of Georgia.

March 19, 2001.

Reconsideration Denied April 12, 2001.


544 S.E.2d 159
Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan, James A. Orr, Charles B. Jones III, Atlanta, for appellant

Troutman Sanders, Kevin C. Greene, Atlanta, Helen O'Leary, James S. Hurt, Thurbert E. Baker, Atty. Gen., Robert S. Bomar, Deputy Atty. Gen., Harold D. Melton, Senior Asst. Atty. Gen., Daniel S. Walsh, Asst. Atty. Gen., for appellees.

Alston & Bird, L. Clifford Adams, Jr., Peter M. Degnan, Robert J. Middleton, Jr., Atlanta, Tisinger, Tisinger, Vance & Greer, Richard G. Tisinger, Sr., Steven T. Minor, Carrollton, amici curiae.

THOMPSON, Justice.

We granted a petition for writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals in Georgia Public Svc. Comm. v. Sawnee Elec. Membership [273 Ga. 703] Corp., 242 Ga.App. 156, 529 S.E.2d 186 (2000), to examine the application of OCGA § 46-3-8(a), the large-load customer choice exception to the Georgia Territorial Electric Service Act, OCGA § 46-3-1 et seq. ("territorial act"). We inquired as follows:

Did the Court of Appeals err when it found that the Georgia Territorial Electrical Service Act's large-load exception applies to an individually-metered apartment complex where the complex's owner installed separate meters that are combined under a master or pass-through meter? See OCGA § 46-3-8(a); City of Norcross v.
544 S.E.2d 160
Georgia Power Co., 197 Ga.App. 891, 399 S.E.2d 725 (1990).

The territorial act establishes a plan whereby every geographic area within the state is assigned to an electric supplier. OCGA § 46-3-2. Once a service territory is assigned, an electric supplier "shall have the exclusive right to extend and continue furnishing service to any new premises" within that area. OCGA § 46-3-3(1). An exception is created by OCGA § 46-3-8(a), which allows a consumer to choose an electric supplier different from the one assigned, where service is furnished

to one or more new premises (but if more than one, such premises must be located on the same tract or on contiguous tracts of land), if utilized by one consumer and having single-metered service and a connected load which, at the time of initial full operation of the premises, is 900 kilowatts or greater.

The undisputed facts show that Dominion CTF L.P. ("Dominion") owns and operates a 380-unit apartment complex located within the assigned service territory of the Sawnee Electric Membership Corporation. Nonetheless, Dominion selected and contracted with Georgia Power to supply electric service to the complex, applying the large-load customer choice exception to the territorial act. Pursuant to that contract, Georgia Power installed a master or pass-through meter which measures the electric usage for the entire complex. Georgia Power bills Dominion for the total usage based on the master meter reading. In addition, Dominion installed separate meters in each individual apartment, and it employs an outside company to read the separate meters and bill each tenant for their individual usage.

Sawnee filed a complaint with the Public Service Commission ("PSC"), alleging that Georgia Power is unlawfully supplying electric service to the complex, which is in Sawnee's assigned service area, in violation of the territorial act. Georgia Power responded that it is entitled to provide service to the complex under the large-load exception. [273 Ga. 704] A PSC hearing officer agreed with Sawnee that the arrangement between Dominion and Georgia Power did not meet the large-load exception, but the full PSC found the exception applicable. The superior court reversed on appeal. Both the PSC and Georgia Power filed separate appeals to the Court of Appeals. In a consolidated opinion, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court and upheld the ruling of the PSC that the complex fell within the exception. Ga. Public Svc. Comm. v. Sawnee EMC, supra. Sawnee sought and was granted certiorari in this Court.

The cardinal rule of statutory construction is "first, to ascertain the legislative intent and purpose in enacting the law and then to give it that construction which will effectuate the legislative intent and purpose." (Punctuation omitted.) City of Calhoun v. North Ga. &c. Corp., 233 Ga. 759, 761(1), 213 S.E.2d 596 (1975). We also recognize that legislative exceptions in statutes are to be strictly construed and should be applied "only so far as their language fairly warrants." 82 CJS 446, Statutes, § 371. All doubts should be resolved in favor of the general statutory rule, rather than in favor of the exemption. Id. See also Faust v. Buchanan, 123 Ga.App. 15, 18, 179 S.E.2d 294 (1970).

In a statement of legislative intent, the General Assembly declared as its purpose in enacting the territorial act:

(1) to assure the most efficient, economical, and orderly rendering of retail electric service within the state, (2) to inhibit duplication of the lines of electric suppliers, (3) to foster the extension and location of electric supplier lines in the manner most compatible with the preservation and enhancement of the state's physical environment, and (4) to protect and conserve lines lawfully constructed by electric suppliers.

OCGA § 46-3-2.

In City of Calhoun, supra at 767, 213 S.E.2d 596, while upholding the constitutionality of the territorial act on several bases, this Court recognized that the legislature "is free to restrict competition among public utilities where ... such competition may be injurious to existing public service." In that regard, we interpreted the statement of legislative intent embodied in OCGA § 46-3-2

544 S.E.2d 161
as follows: "the assignment of service areas under the Act restrains competition, the restraint is for the benefit of the public in minimization of duplication of facilities and prevention of their adverse economic and environmental effects." Id. at 768, 213 S.E.2d 596

In order to determine whether Dominion's complex qualifies for the large-load customer choice exception under OCGA § 46-3-8(a), we must ascertain whether the complex constitutes one or multiple " [273 Ga. 705] premises," whether the premises is "utilized by one consumer," and whether service is provided to that consumer by means of a "single meter."

The definition of "premises" is contained within the territorial act, as follows:

"Premises" means the building, structure, or facility to which electricity is being or is to be furnished, provided that two or more buildings, structures, or facilities which are located on one tract or contiguous tracts of land and are utilized by one electric consumer shall together constitute one premises; [but that separate buildings] shall not... constitute one premises if the permanent service to it is separately metered and the charges for such service are calculated independently of charges for service to any other building [or] structure....

OCGA § 46-3-3(6).

Since the electric service to the individual apartments is separately metered and the charges for service to each tenant are calculated independently, the complex cannot be considered "one premises" within the statutory definition.

The word "consumer," however, is not defined in the territorial act. Since it is not a term of...

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34 practice notes
  • Premier Health Care Invs., LLC v. Uhs of Anchor, L.P., S19G1491
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • October 5, 2020
    ...of the law to the facts is erroneous." Id. at 161, 664 S.E.2d 223. See also, e.g., Sawnee Elec. Membership Corp. v. Ga. Pub. Svc. Comm. , 273 Ga. 702, 706, 544 S.E.2d 158 (2001) ("[W]e are authorized to make an independent determination as to whether the interpretation of the administrative......
  • Sistersong Women of Color Reprod. Justice Collective v. Kemp, CIVIL ACTION FILE No. 1:19-cv-02973-SCJ
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Georgia
    • July 13, 2020
    ...statement of legislative purpose in the codified preamble of the statute) and Sawnee Elec. Membership Corp. v. Georgia Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 273 Ga. 702, 704, 544 S.E.2d 158, 160 (2001) (same). There are other Georgia cases that have derived the purpose of the statute from the face of the act.......
  • Premier Health Care Invs., LLC v. UHS of Anchor, L.P., S19G1491
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • October 5, 2020
    ...of the law to the facts is erroneous." Id. at 161, 664 S.E.2d 223. See also, e.g., Sawnee Elec. Membership Corp. v. Ga. Pub. Svc. Comm. , 273 Ga. 702, 706, 544 S.E.2d 158 (2001) ("[W]e are authorized to make an independent determination as to whether the interpretation of the administrative......
  • Rosser v. Clyatt, A18A0843
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • November 2, 2018
    ...et seq. It has the exclusive right to furnish service within its service area. See Sawnee Elec. Membership Corp. v. Ga. Pub. Svc. Comm. , 273 Ga. 702, 707, 544 S.E.2d 158 (2001). Grady EMC has more than 13,000 members.In 2014, Clyatt, a member of Grady EMC, began questioning some of managem......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
34 cases
  • Premier Health Care Invs., LLC v. Uhs of Anchor, L.P., S19G1491
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • October 5, 2020
    ...of the law to the facts is erroneous." Id. at 161, 664 S.E.2d 223. See also, e.g., Sawnee Elec. Membership Corp. v. Ga. Pub. Svc. Comm. , 273 Ga. 702, 706, 544 S.E.2d 158 (2001) ("[W]e are authorized to make an independent determination as to whether the interpretation of the administrative......
  • Sistersong Women of Color Reprod. Justice Collective v. Kemp, CIVIL ACTION FILE No. 1:19-cv-02973-SCJ
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Georgia
    • July 13, 2020
    ...statement of legislative purpose in the codified preamble of the statute) and Sawnee Elec. Membership Corp. v. Georgia Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 273 Ga. 702, 704, 544 S.E.2d 158, 160 (2001) (same). There are other Georgia cases that have derived the purpose of the statute from the face of the act.......
  • Premier Health Care Invs., LLC v. UHS of Anchor, L.P., S19G1491
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • October 5, 2020
    ...of the law to the facts is erroneous." Id. at 161, 664 S.E.2d 223. See also, e.g., Sawnee Elec. Membership Corp. v. Ga. Pub. Svc. Comm. , 273 Ga. 702, 706, 544 S.E.2d 158 (2001) ("[W]e are authorized to make an independent determination as to whether the interpretation of the administrative......
  • Rosser v. Clyatt, A18A0843
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • November 2, 2018
    ...et seq. It has the exclusive right to furnish service within its service area. See Sawnee Elec. Membership Corp. v. Ga. Pub. Svc. Comm. , 273 Ga. 702, 707, 544 S.E.2d 158 (2001). Grady EMC has more than 13,000 members.In 2014, Clyatt, a member of Grady EMC, began questioning some of managem......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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