CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT.
Warren, Black, Frankfurter, Douglas, Clark, Harlan, Brennan, Whittaker, Stewart
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WARREN delivered the opinion of the Court.
The question in these cases is whether the Federal Power Commission has gone beyond the scope of its delegated authority in denying a certificate of public convenience and necessity under § 7 (e) of the Natural Gas Act of 1938, 52 Stat. 821, as amended, 15 U. S. C. § 717 et seq.*fn1 The principal respondents*fn2 are Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Corp. (Transco), a pipeline company
engaged in transporting natural gas in interstate commerce, and Consolidated Edison Co. (Con. Ed.), a public utility in New York City which uses gas under its boilers and also sells gas to domestic consumers. In 1957 Con. Ed. contracted to purchase gas from producers in the Normanna and Sejita fields in Texas at 19 1/4 cents per Mcf., the contracts of sale containing a prohibition on resale of the gas by Con. Ed. This transaction is commonly labeled a "direct" sale and, because it does not entail a sale for resale in interstate commerce, is not subject to the Commission's jurisdiction except insofar as § 7 requires the Commission to certificate the transportation of gas pursuant to the sale.
Con. Ed. then arranged with Transco for what is called in the record "X-20" service. Under the contract, Transco agreed to transport 50,000 Mcf. daily to Con. Ed. in New York for use under Con. Ed.'s boilers, principally two boilers at Con. Ed.'s Waterside station which were then being fired by coal. Additionally, during a 60-day peak period, Transco agreed to sell 50,000 Mcf. to Con. Ed. from Transco's own reserves without restrictions as to resale. This 60-day supply was designed for use by Con. Ed.'s customers during the winter period when heating demands were at their highest. Transco sought a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the proposed X-20 service in connection with its plan to conduct a major expansion of its pipeline capacity and storage facilities.
Before the hearing examiner, Transco's application was opposed by the FPC staff and groups representing the coal industry. Con. Ed. intervened in favor of Transco's proposal. Transco offered proof that its application met all the conventional tests -- adequate gas reserves, pipeline facilities and market for the gas -- and this showing, with one immaterial exception, has never been challenged. However, the FPC's staff argued vigorously
that the public interest would suffer were Transco's petition granted. Among the grounds advanced were that the gas was to be transported for use under industrial boilers, this disposition being an "inferior" use from the standpoint of conserving a valuable natural resource; that authorization of this and similar direct sales to major industrial users would result in pre-emption of pipeline capacity and gas reserves to the detriment of domestic consumers competing for gas supply; and that the effect of this sale, as well as the resulting increase in direct sales, would effect a general rise in field prices. These contentions were presented as "policy" arguments and no testimony was taken in support. Con. Ed. contended in return that certification was in the public interest, principally because a firm supply of natural gas under the Waterside boilers would reduce the air pollution problem then being aggravated by fly-ash and sulphur dioxide emissions from these boilers. The Waterside station is located near the headquarters building of the United Nations, and Con. Ed. introduced expert testimony indicating that the Waterside boilers were major contributors to the air pollution problem in the area. Respondents also contended that the factors propounded by the FPC's staff were not open for consideration in a § 7 proceeding. The hearing examiner agreed with respondents that his determination was limited to conventional factors and consequently recommended certification. He qualified his recommendation, however, with a statement that, if he were authorized to consider the policy argument related to the end use of the gas advanced by the FPC staff, he would come to the opposite conclusion. He indicated that respondents' proof concerning the air pollution problem was not sufficiently compelling to overcome this contrary argument.
On review before the full FPC, the Commission held that the broad considerations advanced by its staff
were cognizable in a § 7 proceeding. The Commission agreed with respondents that the "idea of ameliorating a smoke condition found unpleasant and annoying . . . is an attractive one" but concluded that "more weighty considerations compel the denial of the grant." 21 F. P. C. 138, 142. Respondents sought a rehearing before the Commission and, upon denial of that petition, 21 F. P. C. 399, appealed to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals reinstated the conclusion of the hearing examiner that the policy considerations advanced by the FPC were outside the scope of a § 7 proceeding. The court relied principally on § 1 (b) of the Natural Gas Act, 15 U. S. C. § 717 (b), which provides:
"The provisions of this chapter shall apply to the transportation of natural gas in interstate commerce, to the sale in interstate commerce of natural gas for resale for ultimate public consumption for domestic, commercial, industrial, or any other use, and to natural-gas companies engaged in such transportation or sale, but shall not apply to any other transportation or sale of natural gas or to the local distribution of natural gas or to the facilities used for such distribution or to the production or gathering of natural gas."
The court also expressed sympathy with respondents' contention that the Commission had given inadequate weight to the air pollution factor; but the holding below does not appear to be based on that ground. 271 F.2d 942.
The principal question before this Court, then, is whether Congress intended to preclude the Commission from denying certification on the basis of the policy considerations advanced by its staff. For purposes of analysis, the litigants have grouped these factors into two broad categories. The first has been labeled the "end use" factor and reflects the Commission's concern that Con. Ed.'s
proposed "inferior" use of gas under its industrial boilers would be wasteful of gas committed to the Commission's jurisdiction and, by the same token, would pre-empt space in pipelines that might otherwise be used for transportation of gas for superior uses. The second may be called the "price" consideration and involves the Commission's fear that this sale -- which was executed at a price higher than the maximum fixed by the Commission in the producing districts here involved -- would increase the price of natural gas in the field, thus triggering a rise in the price provisions in other contracts.
In light of what this Court has said on prior occasions concerning the term "public convenience and necessity" in analogous statutes, the ready inference is that the Commission has the power to consider the "end use" and "price" factors. For example, in United States v. Detroit & Cleveland Navigation Co., 326 U.S. 236, 241, the Court concluded that:
"The Commission is the guardian of the public interest in determining whether certificates of convenience and necessity shall be granted. For the performance of that function the Commission has been entrusted with a wide range of discretionary authority. Interstate Commerce Commission v. Parker, 326 U.S. 60. Its function is not only to appraise the facts and to draw inferences from them but also to bring to bear upon the problem an expert judgment and to determine from its analysis of the total situation on which side of the controversy the public interest lies. Its doubt that the public interest will be adequately served if resumption of service is left to existing carriers is entitled to the same respect as its expert judgment on other complicated transportation problems. . . ." See Interstate Commerce Comm'n v. Railway Labor Executives Assn., 315 U.S. 373, 376-377.
In fact, in interpreting this very section, we said that "§ 7 (e) requires the Commission to evaluate all factors bearing on the public interest." Atlantic Refining Co. v. Public Service Comm'n, 360 U.S. 378, 391. (Emphasis added.) However, respondents correctly point out that Congress, in enacting the Natural Gas Act, did not give the Commission comprehensive powers over every incident of gas production, transportation and sale. Rather, Congress was "meticulous" only to invest the Commission with authority over certain aspects of this field, leaving the residue for state regulation. Panhandle Eastern Pipe Line Co. v. Public Service Comm'n, 332 U.S. 507. Therefore, it is necessary to consider with care whether, despite the accepted meaning of the term "public convenience and necessity," the Commission has trod on forbidden ground in making its decision.
End use. No one disputes that natural gas is a wasting resource and that the necessity for conserving it is paramount.*fn3 As we see it, the question in this case is whether the Commission, through its certification power, may prevent the waste of gas committed to its jurisdiction. One apparent method of preventing waste of gas is to limit the uses to which it may be put, uses for which another, more abundant fuel may serve equally well. Thus the Commission in this case, as it often has in the past,*fn4 has declared that the use of gas under industrial boilers is an "inferior" use, the assumption being that other fuels, particularly coal, are an adequate substitute*fn5 in areas
where such other fuels abound. However, respondents, while conceding the premise that gas may be wasted where coal is readily available, argue that Congress has not awarded the Commission any powers over conservation; rather, this authority has been reserved to the States. This contention is based on the legislative history of the Natural Gas Act.
When Congress initially enacted the Natural Gas Act in 1938, all the indications were that Congress intended the States to be the primary arbiters of conservation problems. The 1938 Act was based on a 1936 report rendered by the Federal Trade Commission*fn6 and the section in that report devoted to conservation stresses the powers of state bodies to adopt corrective measures. The final recommendation of the Federal Trade Commission in regard to conservation contemplated primary state authority, with federal agencies being relegated to a reporting function. This recommendation formed the basis for § 11 of the Act as ultimately passed and that section reveals a secondary role for the Commission in this regard.*fn7
However, in 1940, the Commission reported its dissatisfaction with the limited scope of § 7. The 1938 version of § 7 restricted the Commission's jurisdiction to certification of transportation into areas where the market was already being served by another natural gas company; if a pipeline wished to extend service into virgin territory, the Commission had no power to act. The Commission felt that this limitation barred it from considering "the broad social and economic effect of the use of various fuels" in a § 7 proceeding, Kansas Pipe Line & Gas Co., 2 F. P. C. 29, 57, and, in its 1940 Annual Report, the Commission urged that the restriction be deleted in order that conservation considerations might be weighed. The language used by the Commission is particularly relevant to this case:
"The Natural Gas Act as presently drafted does not enable the Commission to treat fully the serious implications of such a problem. The question should be raised as to whether the proposed use of natural gas would not result in displacing a less valuable fuel
and create hardships in the industry already supplying the market, while at the same time rapidly depleting the country's natural-gas reserves. Although, for a period of perhaps 20 years, the natural gas could be so priced as to appear to offer an apparent saving in fuel costs, this would mean simply that social costs which must eventually be paid had been ignored.
"Careful study of the entire problem may lead to the conclusion that use of natural gas should be restricted by functions rather than by areas. Thus, it is especially adapted to space and water heating in urban homes and other buildings and to the various industrial heat processes which require concentration of heat, flexibility of control, and uniformity of results. Industrial uses to which it appears particularly adapted include the treating and annealing of metals, the operation of kilns in the ceramic, cement, and lime industries, the manufacture of glass in its various forms, and use as a raw material in the chemical industry. General use of natural gas under boilers for the production of steam is, however, under most circumstances of very questionable social economy." 20 F. P. C. Ann. Rep. 79 (1940).
The Commission implemented its recommendation by submitting to Congress a proposed amendment to § 7 with the restrictive language eliminated, and an amendment substantially similar to the one drafted by the Commission was enacted in 1942.*fn8 During the course of the
hearings on the amendment, the Commission reiterated the position it had taken in its 1940 report, Hearings before the House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce on H. R. 5249, 77th Cong., 1st Sess. 82, and the language used by the Committees reporting the bill indicates that the amendment was framed in response to the Commission's complaint. H. R. Rep. No. 1290, 77th Cong., 1st Sess. 3; S. Rep. No. 948, 77th Cong., 2d Sess. 1-2.
It is true, of course, that the Committee reports do not set out the Commission's position in haec verba. For
example, the pertinent language of the House Committee Report states that:
"The bill, as amended, eliminates the objections to the present section 7 (c) above mentioned. By this legislation, the present jurisdictional disputes are eliminated, and the door is opened to the consideration by the Commission of the effect of construction and extensions upon the interests of producers of competing fuels and competitive transportation interests. This result is accomplished, moreover, without undue disturbance of existing operating arrangements of natural-gas companies."*fn9 H. R. Rep. No. 1290, supra.
Consequently, respondents argue that Congress only authorized the Commission to look at one side of the coin -- the health of the coal industry -- because that is the only point mentioned explicitly. However, this contention does not take adequate account of the position the Commission had consistently pressed upon Congress both prior to and during the hearings on the amendment -- that the use of gas for purposes adequately served by other fuels was undesirable not only because it injured the competing industry but, what is more important, because it was wasteful to use a fuel in short supply in place of an abundant fuel. See 20 F. P. C. Ann. Rep. 79 (1940). The history of the amendment reveals no voice raised in opposition to the Commission's position and there is no other indication that Congress was unwilling to give the chief proponent of the amendment anything less than it sought. Thus, it would be curious were we to infer such an intent from the language of the House Committee Report quoted above. Rather, we think it plain the Congress acquiesced in the Commission's position and the excerpted language signifies acquiescence. It should be noted that this is not the first time this Court has addressed itself to the effect of the 1942 amendment to § 7. See Federal Power Comm'n v. Hope Natural Gas Co., 320 U.S. 591, 617, n. 30, and Federal Power Comm'n v. East Ohio Gas Co., 338 U.S. 464, 468-469. And, while it must be conceded that the language pertinent here was not necessary to the decision in either Hope or East Ohio, the clear conclusion of the Court in those cases is directly opposed to respondents' present argument.
Respondents, however, vigorously contend that, subsequent to the 1942 amendment, the Commission itself has made statements on occasion which are inconsistent with the Commission's position in this case. In particular, respondents point to an excerpt from the Commission's
Report to Congress, entitled The First Five Years Under the Natural Gas Act, where the Commission stated:
"In its hearings on certificate cases, under section 7 (c) of the act, as amended, the Commission has freely permitted the intervention of representatives of coal, railroad, labor, and other interests concerned with the production or transportation of competing fuels. These interests have presented extensive evidence on the economic, sociological, and technological aspects of fuel competition, and their representatives have strongly urged the Commission either to deny certificates on the ...