FEA v. Algonquin SNG, Inc.
426 U.S. 548 (1976)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

FEA v. Algonquin SNG, Inc., 426 U.S. 548 (1976)

Federal Energy Administration v. Algonquin SNG, Inc.

No. 75-382

Argued April 20, 1976

Decided June 17, 1976

426 U.S. 548

Syllabus

Section 232(b) of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, as amended by the Trade Act of 1974, provides that, if the Secretary of the Treasury finds that an

"article is being imported into the United States in such quantities or under such circumstances as to threaten to impair the national security,"

the President is authorized to

"take such action, and for such time, as he deems necessary to adjust the imports of [the] article and its derivatives so that . . . imports [of the article] will not threaten to impair the national security."

When it appeared that a prior program established under § 232(b) for adjusting oil imports was not fulfilling its objectives, the Secretary of the Treasury initiated an investigation. On the basis of this investigation, the Secretary found that crude oil and its derivatives and related products were being imported into the United States in such quantities and under such circumstances as to threaten to impair the national security, and accordingly recommended to the President that appropriate action be taken to reduce the imports. Following this recommendation, the President promptly issued a Proclamation, inter alia, raising the license fees on imported oil. Thereafter, respondents -- eight States and their Governors, 10 utility companies, and a Congressman -- brought suits against petitioners challenging the license fees on the ground, inter alia, that they were beyond the President's authority under § 232(b). The District Court denied relief, holding that § 232(b) is a valid delegation to the President of the power to impose license fees on imports, and that the procedures followed by the President and the Secretary in imposing the fees fully complied with the statute. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that § 232(b) does not authorize the President to impose a license fee scheme as a method of adjusting imports, but encompasses only the use of "direct" controls such as quotas.

Held: Section 232(b) authorizes the action taken by the President. Pp. 426 U. S. 558-571.

(a) Section 232(b) does not constitute an improper delegation

Page 426 U. S. 549

of power, since it establishes clear preconditions to Presidential action, including a finding by the Secretary of the Treasury that an article is being imported in such quantities or under such circumstances as to threaten to impair the national security. Moreover, even if these preconditions are met, the President can act only to the extent he deems necessary to adjust the imports so that they will not threaten to impair the national security, and § 32(c) sets forth specific factors for him to consider in exercising his authority. Pp. 426 U. S. 558-560.

(b) In authorizing the President to "take such action and for such time, as he deems necessary to adjust the imports of [an] article and its derivatives," § 232(b)'s language clearly grants him a measure of discretion in determining the method used to adjust imports, and there is no support in the statute's language that the authorization to the President to "adjust" imports should be read to encompass only quantitative methods, i.e., quotas, as opposed to monetary methods, i.e., license fees, of effecting such adjustments; so to limit the word "adjust" would not comport with the range of factors that can trigger the President's authority under § 232(b)'s language. Pp. 426 U. S. 561-562.

(c) Furthermore, § 232(b)'s legislative history amply indicates that the President's authority extends to the imposition of monetary exactions, i.e., license fees and duties, and belies any suggestion that Congress, despite its use of broad language in the statute itself, intended to confine the President's authority to the imposition of quotas and to bar him from imposing a license fee system such as the one in question. Pp. 426 U. S. 562-571.

171 U.S.App.D.C. 113, 518 F.2d 1051, reversed and remanded.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Page 426 U. S. 550

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