West v. Kansas Natural Gas Co.
Annotate this Case
221 U.S. 229 (1911)
U.S. Supreme Court
West v. Kansas Natural Gas Co., 221 U.S. 229 (1911)
West v. Kansas Natural Gas Company
Argued April 4, 5, 1911
Decided May 15, 1911
221 U.S. 229
When a state recognizes an article to be a subject of interstate commerce, it cannot prohibit that article from being the subject of interstate commerce, and so held that corporations engaged in interstate commerce cannot be excluded from transporting from a state oil and gas produced therein and actually reduced to possession.
In matters of foreign and interstate commerce, there are no state lines; in such commerce, instead of the states, a new power and a new welfare appears that transcends the power and welfare of any state.
The welfare of the United States is constituted of the welfare of all the states, and that of the states is made greater by mutual division of their resources; this is the purpose and result of the commerce clause of the Constitution.
Natural gas and oil, when reduced to possession by the owner of the land, are commodities belonging to him subject to his right of sale thereof, and are subjects of both intrastate and interstate commerce.
There is a distinction between the police power of the state to regulate the taking of a natural product such as natural gas and prohibiting that product from transportation in interstate commerce. The former is within, and the latter is beyond, the power of the state. Lindsley v. Natural Carbonic Gas Co., 220 U. S. 61, distinguished.
A state does not have the same ownership in natural gas and oil after the same have been reduced to possession as it does over the flowing waters of its rivers. Riparian owners have no title to the water itself as a commodity. Hudson County Water Co. v. McCarter, 209 U. S. 349, distinguished.
The right to engage in interstate commerce is not the gift of a state, nor can a state regulate or restrain such commerce or exclude from its limits a corporation engaged therein.
Inaction by Congress in regard to a subject of interstate commerce is a declaration of freedom from state interference.
Where a state grants the use of its highways to domestic corporations engaged in intrastate commerce in a commodity, it cannot deny the same use, under the same restrictions, to foreign corporations engaged in interstate commerce in the same commodity, and so held that the statute of Oklahoma prohibiting foreign corporations from building pipelines across highways and transporting natural gas therein to points outside the state is unconstitutional as a interference with, and restraint upon, interstate commerce, and as a deprivation of property without due process of law.
172 F. 545 affirmed.
The facts, which involve the constitutionality of a statute of Oklahoma restricting interstate commerce in oil and natural gas, are stated in the opinion.
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