Utah Copper Co. v. Public Utilities Commission of Utah

Citation203 P. 627,59 Utah 191
Decision Date15 December 1921
Docket Number3659
CourtSupreme Court of Utah
PartiesUTAH COPPER CO. v. PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION OF UTAH et al

Certiorari by the Utah Copper Company to review an order of the Public Utilities Commission of Utah in the matter of the application of the Utah Power & Light Company for permission to increase its power rates under the Public Utilities Act.

Orders and rulings of Commission AFFIRMED.

R. G Lucas, of Salt Lake City, for plaintiff.

H. H Cluff, Atty. Gen., and John F. MacLane and C. C. Parsons both of Salt Lake City, for defendants.

CORFMAN C. J. THURMAN, J., FRICK, J., concurring. GIDEON, J., WEBER, J., dissenting in part.

OPINION

CORFMAN, C. J.

This case is brought here by the plaintiff on a writ of certiorari to review an order of the Public Utilities Commission of Utah made and entered on the 8th day of March, 1921, in the matter of the application of the defendant Utah Power & Light Company for permission to increase its power rates, under the provisions of title 91, Comp. Laws Utah 1917, commonly known and referred to as the Public Utilities Act.

For convenience, hereinafter the plaintiff will be referred to as the "Copper Company," and the defendants, respectively, as the "Commission" and the "Power Company," while the statute bearing on the questions involved will be referred to as the "Utilities Act."

It appears that the Copper Company is engaged in the business of mining and reduction of ores upon an extensive scale in this state, and that the Power Company is engaged in generating hydroelectric energy and furnishing the same to its consumers for heating, lighting, and power purposes. The latter owns and operates some 25 hydroelectric plants on the Bear river in Utah and Idaho. All of its plants are interconnected, and upon its power system approximately 80 per cent. of the population of Utah is dependent for electrical service, industrially and otherwise.

The evidence discloses that initial cost, exclusive of overhead expenses, water rights, and intangible values, of the various power plants owned by the Power Company in Utah and Idaho, represents expenditures made on the part of the Power Company and its predecessor companies of about $ 42,000,000. The Power Company was created a corporation under the laws of the state of Maine in 1912. It began its actual business operations in this state January 1, 1913, and about that time it entered into a 25-year contract with the Copper Company to furnish the latter, for its operations in the mining and reduction of ores, 31,000 horsepower of hydroelectric energy, at a base rate of 4,208 mills per k. w. h. upon conditions therein named. Our Legislature passed the Utilities Act in 1917. Said act, among other things, provides:

Section 4798: "The Commission is hereby vested with power and jurisdiction to supervise and regulate every public utility in this state, as defined in this title, and to supervise all of the business of every such public utility in this state, and to do all things, whether herein specifically designated, or in addition thereto, which are necessary or convenient in the exercise of such power and jurisdiction."

Subdivision 2 of section 4784: "Under such rules and regulations as the commission may prescribe, every public utility other than a common carrier shall file with the Commission within such time and in such form as the Commission may designate, and shall print and keep open to public inspection schedules showing all rates, tolls, rentals, charges, and classifications collected or enforced, or to be collected or enforced, together with all rules, regulations, contracts, privileges, and facilities which in any manner affect or relate to rates, tolls, rentals, charges, classifications, or service. Nothing in this section contained shall prevent the Commission from approving or fixing rates, tolls, rentals or charges, from time to time, in excess of or less than those shown by said schedule."

Section 4785: "Unless the Commission otherwise orders, no change shall be made by any public utility in any rate, fare, toll, rental, charge, or classification, or in any rule, regulation, or contract relating to or affecting any rate, toll, fare, rental, charge, classification, or service, or in any privilege or facility, except after thirty days' notice to the Commission and to the public as herein provided. Such notice shall be given by filing with the Commission and keeping open for public inspection new schedules stating plainly the change or changes to be made in the schedule or schedules then in force, and the time when the change or changes will go into effect. The Commission, for good cause shown, may allow changes without requiring thirty days' notice herein provided for, by an order specifying the changes so to be made and the time when they shall take effect, and the manner in which they shall be filed and published. When any change is proposed in any rate, fare, toll, rental, charge, or classification, or in any form of contract or agreement, or in any rule, regulation, or contract relating to or affecting any rate, toll, fare, rental, charge, classification, or service, or in any privilege or facility, attention shall be directed to such change on the schedule filed with the Commission, by some character to be designated by the Commission, immediately preceding or following the item."

Section 4788: "Except as in this section otherwise provided, no public utility shall charge * * * less or different compensation * * * for any service rendered * * * than the rates * * * applicable to such * * * service as specified in its schedules on file and in effect at the time, nor shall any such public utility * * * extend to any corporation or person any form of contract or agreement * * * except such as are regularly and uniformly extended to all corporations and persons; provided, that the Commission may by rule or order establish such exceptions from the operation of this prohibition as it may consider just and reasonable as to each public utility."

Section 4789: "No public utility shall, as to rates, charges, service, facilities, or in any other respect, make or grant any preference or advantage. * * *"

Section 4800: "Whenever the Commission shall find after hearing that the rates * * * collected by any public utility * * * or that the * * * practices, or contracts * * * affecting such rates * * * are unjust, unreasonable, discriminatory, or preferential, or in any wise in violation of any provisions of law, or that such rates, fares, tolls, rentals, charges, or classifications are insufficient, the Commission shall determine the just, reasonable, or sufficient rates, * * * rules, regulations, practices, or contracts to be thereafter observed and in force, and shall fix the same by order as hereinafter provided."

Section 4830: "1. No public utility shall raise any rate, fare, toll, rental, or charge or so alter any classification, contract, practice, rule, or regulation as to result in an increase in any rate, fare, toll, rental, or charge, under any circumstances whatsoever, except upon a showing before the Commission and a finding by the Commission that such increase is justified.

"2. Whenever there shall be filed with the Commission any schedule stating an individual or joint rate, fare, toll, rental, charge, classification, contract, practice, rule, or regulation increasing or resulting in any increase in any rate, fare, toll, rental, or charge, the Commission shall have power, and it is hereby given authority either upon complaint or upon its own initiative without complaint at once and if it so orders without answer or other formal pleadings by the interested public utility or utilities, but upon reasonable notice, to enter upon a hearing concerning the propriety of such rate, fare, toll, rental, charge, classification, contract, practice, rule, or regulation, and pending the hearing and the decision thereon, such rate, fare, toll, rental, charge, classification, contract, practice, rule, or regulation shall not go into effect; provided that the period of suspension of such rate, fare, toll, rental, charge, classification, contract, practice, rule, or regulation shall not extend beyond 120 days beyond the time when such rate, fare, toll, rental, charge, classification, contract, practice, rule, or regulation would otherwise go into effect unless the Commission, in its discretion, extends the period of suspension for a further period not exceeding six months. On such hearing the Commission shall establish the rates, fares, tolls, rentals, charges, classifications, contracts, practices, rules, or regulations proposed, in whole or in part or others in lieu thereof, which it shall find to be just and reasonable. * * *"

On April 8, 1918, the Commission issued an order, or its "Tariff Circular No. 3," requiring all public utilities, including the Power Company, to file their tariffs or schedules of rates charged consumers. The order was complied with on the part of the Power Company, but its special contracts with the Copper Company and others were not then filed. On October 23, 1918, the Commission issued a supplement to its said Tariff Circular No. 3 in which attention was called to the provisions of the Utilities Act, and particularly to section 4788, supra providing that no public utility shall charge less or different compensation for any service rendered than that specified in the schedules filed, or any deviation therefrom, and further requiring all special contracts to be filed with the Commission. Thereupon the Power Company, in response to said order, filed with the Commission its special contracts, including its said contract with the Copper Company. After examination of the...

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