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Quirion v. P.U.C.
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MAINE SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT					Reporter of Decisions
Decision:  1997 ME 47
Docket:  PUC-96-267
Submitted on briefs January 16, 1997
Decided  March 18, 1997



	[¶1]  Edmund J. Quirion appeals from the decision of the Public
Utilities Commission dismissing his request that George and Ruth Whitin be
declared responsible for providing water service to his neighbors.  The
dismissed request is a part of Quirion's broader request to abandon the
service he has been providing.  Because Quirion's appeal is interlocutory and
raises an issue of statutory construction rather than the constitutionality of a
ruling or order of the Commission,{1} we dismiss the appeal.
	[¶2]  In January 1996, Edmund Quirion, the owner and operator of a
public water utility serving several of his neighbors, filed a request to
abandon service with the Commission.  One of the bases provided for his
request was that he "was wrongly and illegally declared to be a public utility"
by the Commission in 1990.  Quirion further requested that the former
owners of the utility, George and Ruth Whitin, be declared responsible for
providing water service to his customers.  
	[¶3]  In May 1996, the Commission concluded Quirion's request to
abandon service is governed by 35-A M.R.S.A. § 1104, rather than the
provision asserted by Quirion, 35-A M.R.S.A. § 1302(3);{2} concluded it would
not reconsider its 1990 decision; and dismissed Quirion's request regarding
the Whitins because he did not comply with the requirements of the
applicable portion of the statute, 35-A M.R.S.A. § 1302(1). 
	[¶4]  Quirion argues the Commission erred by failing to allow his
request regarding the Whitins to proceed pursuant to section 1302(3), and
the erroneous dismissal violates his constitutional right to have access to the
Commission's judicial authority.{3}  The Commission argues Quirion's appeal
must be dismissed because it raises an issue of statutory interpretation
rather than of constitutional dimension.  We agree.  Quirion's appeal
challenges the Commission's interpretation of section 1302.  It does not
raise an issue regarding the constitutionality of the Commission's decision,
and is not a proper matter for interlocutory appeal, pursuant to section
1320(5).  A party does not convert a challenge of the Commission's statutory
interpretations into an issue of constitutional significance meriting
interlocutory review by merely asserting such an interpretation interferes
with a constitutional right of access to the Commission's jurisdiction.
	[¶5]  Although we conclude this appeal is not properly before us, we
deny the Commission's request for costs pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 76(f).
	The entry is:
							Appeal dismissed.

Attorney for appellant: Matthew E. Pollack, Esq. Pollack & Quirion, P.A. P O Box 250 Topsham, ME 04086 Attorney for appellee: Lisa C. Fink, Esq. Public Utilites Commission 18 State House Station Augusta, ME 04333-0018 Party in interest: Carol Frederick RR 2, Box 533 Weld, ME 04285
FOOTNOTES******************************** {1}. 35-A M.R.S.A. § 1320(5) (1988) provides: "An appeal [from a decision of the commission] may also be taken . . . when the . . . constitutionality of any ruling or order of the commission is in issue, notwithstanding that the ruling or order is not final." {2}. 35-A M.R.S.A. § 1104 (1988) provides: Abandonment of property or service 1. Commission approval. No public utility may abandon all or part of its plant, property or system necessary or useful in the performance of its duties to the public, or discontinue the service which it is providing to the public by the use of such facilities, without first securing the commission's approval. 2. Terms and conditions. In granting its approval, the commission may impose such terms, conditions or requirements as in its judgment are necessary to protect the public interest. A public utility abandoning all or part of its plant, property or system or discontinuing service pursuant to authority granted by the commission under this section is deemed to have waived all objections to the terms, conditions or requirements imposed by the commission in that regard. 35-A M.R.S.A. § 1302 (1988) provides: Complaints 1. Filing a complaint. When a written complaint is made against a public utility by 10 persons aggrieved . . . that a regulation, measurement, practice or act of a public utility is in any respect unreasonable, insufficient or unjustly discriminatory . . . , the commission, being satisfied that the petitioners are responsible, shall . . . investigate the complaint. 2. Processing of complaint. The commission, immediately upon the filing of a complaint, shall notify in writing the public utility . . . . The utility shall . . . respon[d] . . . within 10 days . . . . [T]he commission shall render a decision upon the complaint no later than 9 months after its filing. 3. Complaint by utility or commission. The commission may institute or any public utility may make complaint as to any matter affecting its own product, service or charges. The complaint shall be processed in accordance with subsection 2. {3}. Quirion's request for abandonment has proceeded, pursuant to 35-A M.R.S.A. § 1104, while he has pursued this interlocutory appeal.