Central Georgia Electric Membership Corporation v. Public Service Commission

Court: Georgia Court of Appeals
Case Number: A19A0558
Decision Date: June 25, 2019
Case Type: Utilities

The City of Jackson (“the City”) filed a petition against Central Georgia Electric Membership Corporation (“Central Georgia”) with the Georgia Public Service Commission (“the Commission”) requesting a ruling that the City, and not Central Georgia, had the exclusive right under the Georgia Territorial Electric Service Act (the “Territorial Act”), codified at OCGA § 46-3-1 et seq., to provide electric service to a new gymnasium (“New Gym”) constructed on a high school campus in Butts County, Georgia. A hearing was held, and the hearing officer assigned to the matter by the Commission issued an initial decision. The hearing officer concluded that the City, and not Central Georgia, is authorized to provide electricity to the New Gym. Central Georgia filed an application for review of the initial decision with the full Commission, and the Commission approved and adopted the initial decision. Central Georgia then filed a petition seeking judicial review of the Commission’s decision in the Superior Court of Fulton County, which affirmed the decision of the Commission. Central Georgia appealed from the trial court’s order, contending that the Commission erred by finding that the grandfather clause of the Territorial Act granted the City the right to serve the New Gym and by concluding that the New Gym is an expansion of the existing high school building. The Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed this decision on the basis that, one “premises,” within the meaning of the Territorial Electric Service Act's grandfather clause, entitling every electric supplier to the exclusive right to continue serving any “premises” lawfully served by it, can consist of multiple buildings, such that the grandfather clause can protect a new building if the new building is an expansion of an existing premises already served by an electric supplier. Further, the Territorial Electric Service Act establishes a plan whereby every geographic area within the state is assigned to an electric supplier, and once a service territory is assigned, an electric supplier has the exclusive right to extend and continue furnishing service to any new premises within that area. Finally the Georgia Court of Appeals found that the New Gym constructed on the high school campus was an expansion of the existing high school classroom building, and not a separate premises, and thus the city that supplied electricity for the existing high school facility had the exclusive right to supply electricity to the gymnasium as well, and to continue serving any premises lawfully served by it, though other structures on grounds, including a guard shack, which had been separately metered. The Court of Appeals noted that the New Gym and existing facility were physically attached and served similar purposes, and the New Gym would have shared a common electrical system and single metering arrangement with the existing facility.