In re Application of Blue GraniteAnnotate this Case
The South Carolina Public Service Commission (PSC) was a quasi-judicial body established by the South Carolina General Assembly, to which the legislature delegated "power and jurisdiction to supervise and regulate the rates and service of every public utility in this State and to fix just and reasonable standards, classifications, regulations, practices, and measurements of service to be furnished, imposed, or observed, and followed by every public utility in this State." Part of this power includes the authority "to create incentives for utilities to improve their business practices." The PSC's order on appeal here was primarily focused on providing incentives to the utility to improve its business practices. Appellant, Blue Granite Water Co. (Blue Granite), was a utility that provided water and sewer services. Blue Granite was formerly known as Carolina Water Service (CWS). CWS changed its name to Blue Granite as part of a rebranding campaign, in part because the utility had earned an unfavorable reputation throughout the state. In rejecting Blue Granite's request for an approximate 50% rate increase, and in an effort to incentivize Blue Granite to improve its business practices, the PSC set a lower return on equity (ROE) than requested and allowed only certain portions of Blue Granite's requested costs, citing to the utility's known, poor reputation and service problems. On appeal, Blue Granite contended the PSC's attempts to incentivize the utility actually unfairly punished the company in violation of law. The South Carolina Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part. As to the issues involving the ROE, storm costs, and bond, the Court found the PSC's decision was not unfairly punitive, not arbitrary or capricious, and not clearly erroneous. However, as to the Greenville office expenses, the Court found the PSC's decision to completely deny yearly rental expenses was arbitrary and capricious. The Court therefore remanded this case back to the PSC for additional proceedings.