BEFORE THE PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION
DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SERVICE REGULATION
OF THE STATE OF MONTANA
IN THE MATTER OF the Petition of Bull Mountain Sanitation LLC for Declaratory Ruling Concerning Musselshell County under 69-12-102(1)(c) – whether carriers serving rural areas are exempt from PSC jurisdiction
DOCKET NO. T-14.23.DR
1. On September 26, 2014, Bull Mountain Sanitation, LLC (Bull Mountain) filed a Petition for Declaratory Ruling (Petition) with the Montana Public Service Commission (Commission) requesting a ruling that, pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. § 69-12-102(1)(c) (2013), Bull Mountain's garbage hauling service in Musselshell County is exempt from Class D motor carrier certificate requirements.
2. The Commission issued a Notice of Petition and Opportunity to Comment on September 30, 2014. The Commission received written comments from Allied Waste Services of North America LLC dba Republic Services of Montana (Republic); the Montana Solid Waste Contractors Association; City County Sanitation, Inc. dba Tri-County Disposal of Helena; McGree Trucking Inc. of Butte-Silver Bow, Jefferson and Powell counties; Butte Services, Inc. of Thompson Falls; and Peter P. DelGiudice and Rebecca L. DelGiudice dba B&P Services of Plains. All of the commenters opposed the Petition.
3. Mont. Code Ann. § 69-12-102(1)(c) provides an exemption from Commission motor carrier requirements for:
the transportation of household goods and garbage by motor vehicle in a city, town, or village with a population of less than 500 persons according to the latest United States census or in the commercial areas of a city, town, or village with a population of less than 500 persons, as determined by the commission.
4. Bull Mountain asserts that it is exempt from Class D motor carrier certificate requirements because it provides garbage hauling service to communities of less than 500 persons. According to the Petition, Bull Mountain hauls garbage from residences, farms, and ranches in Musselshell County to designated drop-off sites in Roundup, also in Musselshell County. The Petition states that Roundup is the only town in Musselshell County that has a population over 500, according to the 2010 census. Bull Mountain does not provide garbage hauling service within the city limits of Roundup. Bull Mountain's customers are located in the unincorporated rural areas of Musselshell County and in the town of Melstone, which has a population of 96.
5. Bull Mountain argues that the plain language of the statute provides an exemption for garbage haulers that serve communities of less than 500 persons. Bull Mountain stated it does not provide service to designated populations of 500 or more. According to Bull Mountain, while "village" is not defined in statute, the company does not serve any Census Designated Place (CDP) with a population of 500 or more.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
6. When interpreting a statute, the Commission's purpose is to implement the intent of the legislature. If legislative intent can be determined from the plain language of the statute, the plain language controls. In re Co-Guardianship of D. A., Jr., 2004 MT 302 ¶ 14, 323 Mont. 442, 100 P.3d 650. "If the language is plain, unambiguous, direct, and certain, the statute speaks for itself and there is no need to resort to a legislative history or other means of interpretation." Palmer v. Hart (1982), 201 Mont. 526, 530, 655 P.2d 965, 967. In this case, the plain language of the statute requires that, in order to be exempt, a carrier must transport garbage or household goods in a city, town, or village with fewer than 500 persons.
7. Bull Mountain stated in its Petition that most of its customers "are not located in any type of town or village" and that the only town in which it transports garbage is Melstone. Pet. at pp. 5-6.
8. The Commission finds that the exemption does not apply to Bull Mountain's garbage hauling service, with the exception of its service in the town of Melstone, because most of Bull Mountain's business is not conducted in a city, town, or village of any size. Bull Mountain has met the required showing that Melstone is a town with a population of less than 500. Therefore, Melstone falls under the exemption. The statutory exemption plainly reads that it applies when a carrier transports household goods or garbage in a city, town, or village of less than 500 persons. It does not say that it applies when a carrier does not transport household goods or garbage in a city, town, or village of 500 persons or more. Where the statute speaks for itself, there is nothing left to construe. Curtis v. Dist. Ct. of 21st Jud. Dist. (1994), 266 Mont. 231, 235, 879 P.2d 1164, 1166.
9. The facts on which Bull Mountain requests the Commission to base its ruling include only incidental references to the meaning of the word "village." The proposition of law advocated by Bull Mountain is that the exemption applies because Bull Mountain does not transport garbage in cities, towns, or villages with populations of 500 or more. Bull Mountain does not argue that the rural areas it serves are cities, towns, or villages. Bull Mountain has presented no facts to show that it is transporting garbage in any other cities, towns, or villages with populations of less than 500 persons (except for Melstone) and should thus be exempt from Commission regulation.
10. Bull Mountain introduced the concept of CDPs in its Petition, and the fact that it served three of them, as support for the fact that Musselshell County is rural in nature, not as support for an argument it did not make that CDPs are equivalent in some way to cities, towns, or villages. Pet. at pp. 3, 5.
11. In decades of agency practice, the Commission has interpreted its statutory authority to extend to the transportation of household goods and garbage in the manner supported by the commenters, rather than in the manner advocated by Bull Mountain. There are numerous examples of regulated Class D and household goods carriers whose authority includes rural areas such as those Bull Mountain argues it can serve without obtaining Commission authority. Two examples include Republic and Disposal Service of Montana who have sought and obtained Commission authority to provide service in the same areas of Musselshell County that Bull Mountain asserts it may serve without obtaining Commission authority.
12. If the 1947 legislature had intended, when it added this exemption to Chapter 12, to broadly deregulate the transportation of household goods and garbage in all of the rural areas of the state as advocated by Bull Mountain, it would have done so in a straightforward manner, not by use of an exemption. Exemptions to statutes should be construed narrowly. Menlo Service Corp. v. U.S., 765 F.2d 805, 810 (9th Cir. 1985) citing Donovan v. Nekton, Inc., 703 F.2d 1148, 1151 (9th Cir. 1983).
13. The Petition presents no facts that CDPs are villages, and no argumentation as to what a village is. The term is undefined in Title 69 and used only sparingly elsewhere in the Montana Code Annotated. Given the lack of facts and argumentation, the Commission declines to issue a declaratory order defining "village."
14. The Commission declines to issue the declaratory ruling sought by Bull Mountain. The Commission only grants an exemption to serving Melstone, as it is a town with less than 500 people, and is therefore subject to the exemption.
DONE AND DATED this 9th day of December, 2014, by a vote of 5 to 0.
BY ORDER OF THE MONTANA PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION
/s/ W.A. (BILL) GALLAGHER
W.A. (BILL) GALLAGHER
/s/ BOB LAKE
/s/ KIRK BUSHMAN
/s/ TRAVIS KAVULLA
/s/ ROGER KOOPMAN
/s/ ALEISHA SOLEM
CERTIFICATE OF MAILING
The undersigned hereby certifies that on the 12th day of February 2015, a true and correct copy of the foregoing has been serviced by placing the same in the United States Mail, postage prepaid, to the service list in the Commission's master file which can be viewed at 1701 Prospect Avenue, Helena, MT 59601:
/s/ Aleisha Solem
 “Census Designated Places are delineated to provide data for settled concentrations of population that are identifiable by name but are not legally incorporated under the laws of the state in which they are located.” Exhibit D to the Petition, U.S. Census Bureau’s “Geographic Terms and Concepts,” 2010 Census, p. A-21.