Thursday, May 06, 2010

standing - associations

Energy Conservation Council v. PUC - Cmwlth. Court - May 6, 2010

An association was held to have standing to challenge a PUC ruling concerning the siting of utility lines.

If a party is not adversely affected in any way by the determination being challenged, the party is not aggrieved and, thereby, has no standing to obtain a judicial resolution of the challenge. William Penn Parking Garage, Inc. v. City of Pittsburgh, 464 Pa. 168, 192, 346 A.2d 269, 280 (1975). “[I]t is not sufficient for the person claiming to be ‘aggrieved’ to assert the common interest of all citizens in procuring obedience to the law.” Id. at 192, 346 A.2d at 280-81. In order to be aggrieved, a party must have a substantial interest in the subject matter of the litigation, the interest must be direct, and the interest must be immediate. Id. The substantial interest requirement means that “there must be some discernable adverse effect to some interest other than the abstract interest of all citizens in having others comply with the law.” Id. at 195, 346 A.2d at 282. A direct interest “means that the person claiming to be aggrieved must show causation of the harm to his interest by the matter of which [the person] complains.” Id. Finally, the interest must “be ‘immediate’ and ‘not a remote consequence of the judgment.’” Id. at 197, 346 A.2d at 283 (quoting Keystone Raceway Corp. v. State Harness Racing Commission, 405 Pa. 1, 7-8, 173 A.2d 97, 100 (1961)).

An association may have standing as a representative of its members. Tripps Park v. PUC, 415 A.2d 967, 970 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1980). Thus, as long as an organization “has at least one member who has or will suffer a direct, immediate, and substantial injury to an interest as a result of the challenged action[, i.e., is aggrieved, the organization] has standing.” Parents United for Better Schools v. School District of Philadelphia, 646 A.2d 689, 692 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1994) (PUBS). Tripps Park, 415 A.2d at 970.

A review of ECC’s protest and the list of its members clearly reveals that ECC has standing to appeal the PUC’s determination. ECC has at least sixteen members that are located in and around the area in which the facilities, including the potentially 200-foot tall tower will be located. Nine of ECC’s members are located within the proposed rights of way for the facilities. Further, ECC members testified as to the impacts the siting, construction, operation, and maintenance of the facilities would have on them, their properties, their businesses, and their communities. Additionally, ECC members include affected ratepayers. The ECC and its members, some of whom own property within the rights of way or are affected ratepayers, have an interest in the PUC’s determination that is more than just the interest shared by all citizens to prevent the construction of a HV transmission line. Moreover, the harm alleged by the ECC on behalf of its members, including increased rates and decreased property values, is directly caused by the PUC’s approval of the facilities applications.