[39 Pa.B. 2654]
[Saturday, May 23, 2009]
Public Meeting held
April 16, 2009
Commissioners Present: James H. Cawley, Chairperson; Tyrone J. Christy, Vice Chairperson; Robert F. Powelson; Kim Pizzingrilli; Wayne E. Gardner
In re: Application filed nunc pro tunc by Jenner Township, Somerset County, on behalf of Ligonier Mountain Land Company, d/b/a Ligonier Highlands Water & Sewer, for the abandonment of the right to offer, furnish and supply water service to the public in a portion of Jenner Township, Somerset County, in an area locally known as Laurel Mountain Village; Doc. No. A-2009-2099569
In re: Application filed nunc pro tunc by Jenner Township, Somerset County, on behalf of Ligonier Mountain Land Company, d/b/a Ligonier Highlands Water & Sewer, for the abandonment of the right to offer, furnish, supply and provide wastewater collection, treatment and disposal service to the public in a portion of Jenner Township, Somerset County, in an area locally known as Laurel Mountain Village; Doc. No. A-2009-2099570
By the Commission:
On March 20, 2009, Jenner Township (Township) of Somerset County, 2058 Lincoln Highway, Boswell, PA 15531 filed two applications nunc pro tunc, on behalf of Ligonier Mountain Land Company, d/b/a Ligonier Highlands Water & Sewer-Water Division (Water System) and Wastewater Division (Wastewater System), a defunct and nonoperating business, seeking certificates of public convenience pursuant to section 1102(a)(2) of the Public Utility Code, 66 Pa.C.S. § 1102(a)(2), evidencing Commission approval for the Water System and Wastewater System to abandon water and wastewater services to the public in Jenner Township, Somerset County, in an area locally known as Laurel Mountain Village (Village).
By Administrative Orders of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the Township was directed to assume ownership, operation, maintenance and control of the Wastewater System and the Water System on April 7, 2004, and August 27, 2008, respectively.
The Village was originally a planned 1,000 lot development with home construction beginning about 1960 by Laurel Mountain Development Corporation. By the late 1970s, only 50 homes were built with individual water wells and onlot septic wastewater systems. In 1971, DEP (then Resources) placed a moratorium for onlot septic systems; thus, virtually halting all home construction. In less than a decade, the current onlot septic systems began to fail.
Ridge Line Development Company (Ridge Line) bought the development and constructed a wastewater treatment plant. Ridge Line was certificated on July 13, 1979, at Docket No. A-00101384, and was approved to provide wastewater collection, treatment and disposal service. Ridge Line's tariff was approved and became effective on October 16, 1979. A monthly rate of $15.00/month was charged to the residential customers.
However, soon thereafter, Ridge Line fell into financial hardship and was foreclosed upon circa 1985. Another entity, The Hutchinson Property Development Group, Inc., acquired Ridge Line's assets. This new entity developed a spring and began supplying water to the Village residents and in 1987, added a few additional water and sewer customers. This company did not file notice to the Commission concerning any of these actions. Circa 1990, this latest company declared bankruptcy.
Ligonier Mountain Land Company (LMLC) filed with the Department of State and incorporated on September 17, 1996. On or about March 1, 1998, the Resolution Trust Corporation (at that time, current holder of all real estate and assets in the Village) awarded LMLC title to 450 lots, a clubhouse, seven residential homes, the Wastewater System and the Water System.
On June 22, 2001, LMLC, d/b/a Ligonier Highlands Water & Sewer was approved by this Commission to provide wastewater service to the Village. The company also received Commission approval to provide water service on July 18, 2001. Approved quarterly flat rates were $67.45 for wastewater and $67.45 for water service. In or about 2003-2004, LMLC became defunct and ceased all responsibility of both utility systems.
On April 7, 2004, DEP entered an Administrative Order thereby ordering the Township to assume all responsibility of the Wastewater System.
In 2004, Somerset Trust Company filed foreclosure proceedings against LMLC for defaulting on its loans consisting of real estate lots as well as the Wastewater System and Water System.
On June 16, 2006, LMLC tendered Deeds in Lieu of Mortgage Foreclosure to Ligonier Laurel Transfer, LLC, a subsidiary of Somerset Trust Company, concerning all real property, including both utilities, in the Village.
On August 27, 2008, DEP entered an Administrative Order thereby ordering the Township to file an application for obtaining a valid Public Water Supply Permit that requires installation of a well pump, treatment equipment, pump building, chlorine contact tank, associated piping and a storage tank.
On January 29, 2009, Ligonier Laurel Transfer, LLC conveyed all associated real estate, infrastructure, right-of-way and easements associated with both utilities to the Township.
On March 6, 2009, the Township sent notices of the change of ownership with the first quarter billing to the existing customers in the Village. The rates are the same as the rates contained in LMLC's existing tariffs. The notice further stated that the Township intends to install two wastewater pump stations and connect with the Jenner Area Joint Sewer Authority. The Water system will remain stand alone at this time.
In the instant applications, the Township requests that the Commission waive the $350 filing fee for both utilities as prescribed in our Regulations as the Township avers that the take over of these systems will require substantial expenditures to bring them into compliance with DEP regulations. We will waive the filing fees.
The Township further states that the utility systems are wholly contained within the Township's boundary limits and therefore, will not fall under the Commission's jurisdiction.
In recognition of the circumstances identified in the subject Applications, the record provides substantial evidence of affirmative public benefit sufficient to warrant approval of the proposed transaction under City of York v. Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, 449 Pa. 136, 295 A.2d 825 (1972) and Irwin A. Popowsky v. Pa. PUC, 937 A.2d 1040 (Pa. 2007).
Based upon the fact that the Township, by these applications on behalf of LMLC nunc pro tunc, is mandated by DEP to rehabilitate, construct new facilities, operate and maintain these wastewater and water utilities, approval is necessary or proper for the service, accommodation, convenience or safety of the public; Therefore,
It Is Ordered That:
1. The applications nunc pro tunc for abandonment filed by Jenner Township of Somerset County on behalf of Ligonier Mountain Land Company, d/b/a Laurel Highlands Water & Sewer filed at Docket Nos. A-2009-2099569 and A-2009-2099570 are hereby approved.
2. The appropriate certificates of public convenience shall be issued to Jenner Township pursuant to section 1102(a)(2) of the Public Utility Code, 66 Pa.C.S. § 1102(a)(2), authorizing Ligonier Mountain Land Company, d/b/a Laurel Highlands Water & Sewer to abandon providing wastewater collection, treatment and disposal service and water service to the public in a portion of Jenner Township, Somerset County.
3. A copy of this Tentative Order be served upon the Department of Environmental Protection's Southwest Regional Office and Bureau of Regulatory Counsel, the Department of Revenue--Bureau of Corporation Taxes, Ligonier Laurel Transfer, LLC, Seven Springs Farms, Inc. d/b/a Seven Springs Mountain Resort and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.
4. The Secretary shall certify this Tentative Order and deposit it with the Legislative Reference Bureau for publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
5. Jenner Township of Somerset County is directed to cause to be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the Jenner Township area, notice of this Tentative Order and of the Commission's intent to cancel the Ligonier Mountain Land Company, d/b/a Laurel Highlands Water & Sewer filed certificates of public convenience at A-230088 and A-210108 absent adverse public comment within the 20-day time constraint established in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
6. If no objection to this Tentative Order is filed with the Commission within 20 days of the publication date in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, this Tentative Order shall become final, and the Commission's Secretary's Bureau shall cancel the operating authority of Ligonier Mountain Land Company, d/b/a Laurel Highlands Water & Sewer.
JAMES J. MCNULTY,
[Pa.B. Doc. No. 09-969. Filed for public inspection may 22, 2009, 9:00 a.m.]
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