Washington Law Review




The Florida Power and Light Company (FPL) generates, transmits, distributes and sells electric energy in the State of Florida. It is the largest electric utility in that state. FPL is directly connected with four other Florida electric systems in a "power pool" arrangement. One of the other systems is connected (in a similar pooling arrangement) to a further system across the state line. FPL has no direct interstate connections. The electric power on all these systems is supplied as alternating current at a frequency of 60 cycles. Frequency control and synchronization are maintained by all the systems. This permits an automatic free flow of power throughout the networks of all the systems, which is normally beyond the control of any particular system. On this basis, the Federal Power Commission (FPC) in a 3 to 2 decision found that FPL operates in "electromagnetic unity" with suppliers in and outside of Florida, and that such unity, without more, demonstrates that FPL "owns and operates facilities for the interstate transmission of electric energy" and thus is a "public utility" within the meaning of § 201 of the Federal Power Act. The FPC thus asserted jurisdiction over FPL. On appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals a unanimous court reversed. Held: The Commerce Clause does not extend federal jurisdiction over any power company on the sole basis that it is interconnected and electromagnetically synchronized with any other company in another state. The proper test for federal jurisdiction is a factual determination of actual interstate power flow. Florida Power & Light Co. v. FPC, 430 F.2d 1377 (5th Cir. 1970), cert. granted, 91 S. Ct. 873 (1971).

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