Gainesville Utilities Department v. Florida Power Corporation

PETITIONER: Gainesville Utilities Department
RESPONDENT: Florida Power Corporation
LOCATION: C-M School Corporate Office

DOCKET NO.: 464
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1970-1971)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 402 US 515 (1971)
ARGUED: Feb 24, 1971
DECIDED: May 24, 1971

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Gainesville Utilities Department v. Florida Power Corporation

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 24, 1971 in Gainesville Utilities Department v. Florida Power Corporation

Warren E. Burger:

We’ll hear arguments next in 464, Gainesville Utilities against Florida Power Corporation.

Counsel may I inquire, is it contemplated that 464 and 469 will be interchangeably argued in both sets of arguments or are you going to have them completely separated?

George Spiegel:

Well, procedurally they’re completely separated?

Warren E. Burger:

Yes, I realize that.

George Spiegel:

But in terms of the subject matter they are the same.

Warren E. Burger:

Further -- my question is, specifically in the next hour are we going to concern ourselves with 464?

George Spiegel:

Yes.

Warren E. Burger:

Very well, you may proceed whenever you’re ready Mr. Spiegel.

George Spiegel:

And Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

The City of Gainesville, Florida operates an isolated electric system serving some 60,000 people and Alachua County, Florida and is a rapidly growing system with a demand doubling every five years in a concomitant necessity to continue to build additional generating facilities.

There is in Florida and there was at the time in 1965 an interconnected system of five utilities.

Our home were interconnected with each other, were selling power back and forth between each other and generally applying to each other mutual assistance and their operations in general were guided by an operating committee and their interconnections were founded upon bilateral agreements.

The City of Gainesville desires to interconnect with this grid or this pool and it was unable to negotiate an agreement with either of its closest neighbors, Florida Power and Light Company and Florida Power Corporation and accordingly --

Byron R. White:

Mr. Spiegel, was the City ever a customer, a direct customer of any of these five utilities?

George Spiegel:

No, Your Honor.

Byron R. White:

It’s all been a municipal operated situation?

George Spiegel:

Yes, during World War II, there was an emergency interconnection with Florida Power Corporation which was severed shortly after the war.

We commission after extents of hearings under Section 202 (b) of the Federal Power Act ordered the interconnection and fixed the terms and conditions for the sale of energy across that interconnection and for the responsibilities which Gainesville would have to assume by way of providing generating capacity reserves to the interconnected system.

And in general, the Commission fixed the same pro rata terms and obligations on Gainesville as what exists among members of the pool.

Appeal was taken -- a petition for review was taken to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals by Florida Power Corporation.

Byron R. White:

Mr. Spiegel, would you say that broadly all the significant conditions for Gainesville are the same they are between and among the other members of the grid?

George Spiegel:

Yes, sir.

There are some minor differences in certain of individual bilateral contracts but in general they are the same.

But the Commission does require that Gainesville abide by the operating criteria of the Florida Operating Committee precisely the same as other systems.

Three issues were presented in the Court of Appeals, the first issue being whether the Commission had authority to order the interconnection and the court upheld the Commission on that.

The second issue was whether the Commission should be required to condition the interconnection upon the making of a territorial agreement between the parties.

The Commission had declined to do so and the court had upheld the Commission on that issue.

The only question on which -- the third question and the only question on which the court reversed was as to a single aspect of the compensation arrangement.

There’s no disagreement as to what the price should be when economy energy flows through the system between a systems.

There’s no dispute as to what -- there’s no serious question as to what the rate should be when they arranged firm transactions, short-term transactions.