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39

Opinion of the Court.

sented evidence tending to show that their existing rates were so low as not to yield any return upon the property employed in the business; and that the rates did not defray fully the operating costs of the traffic and its proportion of the taxes payable. This evidence was in character persuasive. It was fairly specific, direct, and comprehensive. If the facts warranted, the shippers and the public officials might, of course, have shown by evidence of similar character that the carriers' evidence was inherently untrustworthy; or it might have been overcome by more persuasive evidence to the contrary. Little attempt was made to show that any testimony introduced by the carriers was inherently untrustworthy. Little conflict with the evidence of the carriers was developed by the evidence as to specific facts introduced for the shippers and the public. Apparently necessary inferences from specific facts established by the carriers were not explained away. The Department's findings concerning operating costs rested largely upon deductions from data found in published reports of the carriers and in their exhibits filed in this case. Instead of attempting to show by evidence, reasonably specific and direct, what the actual operating cost of this traffic was to the several carriers, the Department created a composite figure representing the weighted average operating cost per 1,000 gross ton miles of all revenue freight carried on the four systems and made that figure a basis for estimating the operating cost of the log traffic in Washington. This was clearly erroneous.

A precise issue was the cost on each railroad of transporting logs in carload lots in western Washington, the average haul on each system being not more than 32

* The figure taken for the Oregon-Washington was the average cost per 1,000 gross ton miles of that company-not of the whole Union Pacific system. The lines of the Oregon-Washington are located in three States with an aggregate of 2,218 miles of road.

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miles. In using the above composite figure in the determination of this issue the Department necessarily ignored, in the first place, the differences in the average unit cost on the several systems; and then the differences on each in the cost incident to the different classes of traffic and articles of merchandise, and to the widely varying conditions under which the transportation is conducted. In this unit cost figure no account is taken of the differences in unit cost dependent, among other things, upon differences in the length of haul"; in the character of the commodity; in the configuration of the country; in the density of the traffic; in the daily loaded car movement; in the extent of the empty car movement; in the nature of the equipment employed; in the extent to which the equipment is used; in the expenditures required for its maintenance. Main line and branch line freight, interstate and intrastate, car load and less than car load, are counted alike. The Department's error was fundamental in its nature. The use of this factor in computing the operating costs of the log traffic vitiated the whole process of reasoning by which the Department reached its conclusion.

The mere admission by an administrative tribunal of matter which under the rules of evidence applicable to judicial proceedings would be deemed incompetent, United States v. Abilene & Southern Ry., 265 U. S. 274, 288, or mere error in reasoning upon evidence introduced, does not invalidate an order. But where rates found by a regulatory body to be compensatory are attacked as being confiscatory, courts may enquire into the method by which its conclusion was reached. An order based

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5 On the Northern Pacific the average length of haul of all its intrastate traffic in Washi was 99 miles; of all its traffic in Washington, interstate and intrastate, 142 miles; of all its traffic on the whole system, 334 miles. Compare Shepard v. Northern Pacific Ry., 184 Fed. 765, 781-2.

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upon a finding made without evidence, The Chicago Junction Case, 264 U. S. 258, 263, or upon a finding made upon evidence which clearly does not support it, Interstate Commerce Commission v. Union Pacific R. R., 222 U. S. 541, 547, is an arbitrary act against which courts afford relief. The error under discussion was of this character. It was a denial of due process. Compare New York & Queens Gas Co. V. McCall, 245 U. S. 345, 348. The invalidity was not avoided by making the order, in terms, for an experimental period. The rates as to which the evidence was primarily directed were those in force before and during the hearings. If even the existing rates were confiscatory, as the carriers' evidence embodying the results of ample experience tended to show, there could be no reason for awaiting the test of the much lower rates which were prescribed. The cases which applied the principle of awaiting the result of an experimental period for untried rates have no application here. Willcox v. Consolidated Gas, 212 U. S. 19; Northern Pacific Railway v. North Dakota, 216 U. S. 579; Cedar Rapids Gas Light v. Cedar Rapids, 223 U. S. 655; Louisville v. Cumberland Telephone Co., 225 U. S. 430, 436; Brush Electric Co. v. Galveston, 262 U. S. 443.

Reversed.

υ.

MID - NORTHERN OIL COMPANY J. W. WALKER, AS TREASURER, JOSEPH M. DIXON, GOVERNOR, AND C. T. STEWART, SECRETARY, OF THE STATE OF MONTANA, ET AL.

ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF MONTANA.

No. 256. Argued March 9, 1925.—Decided April 13, 1925.

1. Assuming that a private corporation engaged in producing oil

from public lands as lessee of the United States under the Leasing Act of February 25, 1910, is a governmental agency, means or instrumentality such that an annual license tax measured by a

Argument for Plaintiff in Error.

268 U.S.

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percentage of the gross value of the annual production can not without the consent of Congress be imposed by the State in which the operations are conducted, -held that consent was given by the act, $ 32, in the proviso “That nothing in this Act shall be construed or held to affect the rights of the States or other local authority to exercise any rights which they may have, including the right to levy and collect taxes upon improvements, output of mines, or other rights, property, or assets of any lessee of the

United States." P. 48. 2. Ejusdem generis is a rule of construction, to be used to ascertain

the intent of the law-makers and not to subvert it when ascer

tained. P. 49. 65 Mont. 414; 68 id. 550, affirmed.

a

ERROR to a judgment of the Supreme Court of the State of Montana sustaining a state license tax in a suit brought by the Oil Company to enjoin its enforcement.

Mr. Frederick D. Anderson, with whom Messrs. Charles S. Thomas and Donald Campbell were on the brief, for the plaintiff in error.

No license, occupation or privilege tax can lawfully be imposed by a State upon a governmental agency, means or instrumentality. The plaintiff in error, acting as a lessee of oil and gas lands from the United States, is a governmental agency, means or instrumentality. The disposal of public lands by governmental oil and gas lease is the performance of a trust by the United States and an exercise of governmental power such as cannot be controlled or interfered with by the States. The Montana tax lays such a burden or interference as to render it invalid.

The Act of February 25, 1920, (The Leasing Law) does not by its terms grant to the State the power to impose the License Tax in question. The statute confirms the existing rights of the States. It adds nothing to them. The right to tax the governmental agency, means or instrumentality is inconsistent with the whole purpose and object of the leasing law and is not conferred

45

Opinion of the Court.

by it. The phrase "other rights” refers to property of

“ an intangible or special nature subject to a property tax. The proviso clause in § 32 is introduced out of abundant caution to remove all doubt of the intention of Congress. Assuming the language of $ 32 to be uncertain and doubtful, it cannot confer the right to tax operations of plaintiff in error. The history of the legislation shows that Congress intended the distribution of royalties to be in lieu of the extensive right of taxation belonging to the States under the public mining laws.

Messrs. C. E. Pew, L. A. Foot, Attorney General of the State of Montana, and A. H. Angstman, Assistant Attorney General, were on the brief for defendants in

error.

MR. JUSTICE SUTHERLAND delivered the opinion of the Court.

1

This suit was brought by the Oil Company to enjoin the enforcement of an annual license tax imposed by a state statute (Montana Revised Codes, 1921, SS 2397– 2408) ? upon persons producing petroleum, etc., equal to one per centum of the gross value of the oil produced during the year. The statute, as applied to the company, is assailed as invalid, upon the ground that the company, by assignment of the original leases, is a lessee of the United States of certain public lands entered as homesteads but not yet granted by patent, upon which it

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1 2398. Oil license tax. Every person engaging in or carrying on the business of producing, within this state, petroleum, must, for the year 1921, and each year thereafter, when engaged in or carrying on any such business in this state, pay, to the state treasurer, for the exclusive use and benefit of the state of Montana, license tax for engaging in and carrying on such business, in an amount equal to one per centum of the total gross value of all petroleum and other mineral or crude oil produced by such person within this state during such year;

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