Federal Power Commission v. Florida Power & Light Company

PETITIONER: Federal Power Commission
RESPONDENT: Florida Power & Light Company
LOCATION: Leon County Courthouse

DOCKET NO.: 70-38
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 404 US 453 (1972)
ARGUED: Nov 15, 1971
DECIDED: Jan 12, 1972

ADVOCATES:
Jefferson D. Giller - for respondent
Samuel Huntington - for petitioner

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Federal Power Commission v. Florida Power & Light Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 15, 1971 in Federal Power Commission v. Florida Power & Light Company

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next to number 38, Federal Power Commission against Florida Power and Light.

You may proceed Mr. Huntington.

Samuel Huntington:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the court.

The question in this case here on writ of certiorari to the Fifth Circuit is whether respondent owns and operates facilities for the transmission of electric energy in interstate commerce.

If respondent does, then it is a “public utility” subject to the Commission’s jurisdiction under Section 201 of the Federal Power Act.

Under section 201, electric energy is deemed to be transmitted in interstate commerce if “transmitted from a state and consumed at any point outside thereof.”

On the basis of an extensive record, the Commission concluded that electric energy was indeed transmitted from respondent’s facilities in Florida and consumed out of state.

This conclusion was based independently, one on analysis of the independence of respondent and out of state utilities and two on studies introduced by the Commission staff showing that electric power flows could be traced from respondent’s facilities to an out-of-state utility.

Before turning to the facts of this case, I would like to note just briefly the consequences of Commission jurisdiction.

The only immediate consequence in this case, if the Commission’s order is upheld by this court, would be to require respondent to comply with the Commission's uniform system of account.

The establishment of jurisdiction however would also subject respondent's future wholesale sales of electric energy to Commission jurisdiction and also would enable the Commission under certain circumstances to what a respondent could interconnect and sell electric energy to other utilities.

The pertinent facts in this case are as follows: Respondent is a major electric utility, it is the largest utility in Florida and in 1965 ranked ninth in the nation in terms of revenues.

Its facilities are located wholly within the state of Florida and serve over 900,000 customers -- six of them were wholesale customers.

Although, none of its facilities extend to the state line, respondent is interconnected with the Florida Power Corporation and the Florida Power Corporation in turn is interconnected with the Georgia Power Company as well as other utilities across the state line.

In addition to its interconnection with the Florida Power Corporation, respondent is interconnected with three other Florida utilities and these five Florida utilities make up the Florida Operating Committee.

Through the Committee, these utilities coordinate the installation and maintenance of generating equipment.

They share generating reserves and they exchange information on a daily basis to better coordinate their operations.

By these activities therefore each member is able to provide its customers with more reliable service.

As I mentioned before, the Florida Power Corporation has interconnections across the state line with the Georgia Power Company and these two companies exchange substantial amounts of electric energy from year to year.

All of the utilities, that I have referred to thus far are members of the 140-member Interconnected Systems Group, a group of interconnected utilities spanning the southeast and central portions of the United States.

The first ground of the Commission's finding of jurisdiction in this case was based on an analysis of respondents operation as a part of its vast interconnected system.

As the Commission staff expert witness testified, all our 140 members of the Interconnected Systems Group and indeed all interconnected systems, operate in synchronism -- that is they all operate at precisely the same frequency.

On modern systems charges as current is supplied as alternating current, alternating at 60 cycles per second.

But suppose, I do not know what this record shows but is this the same?

It is hardly a generating electric system, I noted that it is not somehow interconnected with others in this grid pattern?

Samuel Huntington:

Well, there are some isolated municipal operations.

That is quite actually contrary.

Samuel Huntington:

At this point there are -- most of the nation’s facilities are interconnected, yes.

Well, is the government's argument in this case going to take this so far as to say, this means that the Federal Power Commission now has regulatory authority over virtually every --

Samuel Huntington:

Every utility has been interconnected.