San Pablo Bay Pipeline (“SPBP”)

221 Cal. App. 4th 1436; 2013 Cal. App. LEXIS (December 11, 2013)

(Fifth Appellate District) affirmed a Commission Decision finding that truck racks and storage tanks owned by the Petitioner had been dedicated to the public and were thus subject to Commission regulation.  An earlier Commission decision found that the Petitioner’s pipeline had been dedicated did not expressly find that the truck racks and storage tanks had been so dedicated.  In the decision under review, however, the Commission stated that its earlier finding of dedication (of the pipeline) included the truck racks and storage tanks.  The Court (1) noted that the definition of “pipeline” in Section 227 included “all real estate, fixtures, and personal property, owned, controlled, operated, or managed in connection with or to facilitate the transmission, storage, distribution, or delivery of crude oil or other fluid substances except water through pipe lines” and (2) held that the Commission could reasonably construe its earlier finding of dedication to include the truck racks and storage tanks.  (The Court found that the Commission was possessed with the authority under Section 701 to construe its prior decisions.)  One issue raised by Petitioner was whether the earlier finding met the requirement of Section 1705 that Commission Decisions contain findings of fact on all issues material to the order or decision; the Court concluded that the decision did meet the requirements of Section 1705 since (1) the parties did not expressly raise the issue of truck racks and storage tanks in the earlier proceeding and (2) “Petitioners have cited no authority construing the statutory requirement for findings ‘on all issues material’ to require specific findings on issues not addressed by the parties.”  Finally, the Court relies heavily on Greyhound (Para. 71, infra)  principally for the notion that “there is a strong presumption that the Commission’s decisions are valid” (rather than with regard to deference on questions of statutory construction.)  The Court’s application of Greyhound in such a sweeping fashion (extending beyond statutory construction) raises the question of whether that “strong presumption” (announced in an era when the law proscribed any challenge to a factual finding by the Commission) remains appropriate in light of the 1998 amendments to the Public Utilities Code subjecting Commission decisions to the same standards of judicial review as those of other state agencies.  See discussion at Para. 71, infra.

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