Pennsylvania v. West Virginia
Annotate this Case
262 U.S. 553 (1923)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Pennsylvania v. West Virginia, 262 U.S. 553 (1923)
Pennsylvania v. West Virginia
Nos. 15 and 16, Original
Argued December 8, 9, 1921
Restored to docket for reargument January 9, 1922
Reargued February 28, March 1, 1922
Restored to docket for reargument November 13, 1922
Reargued April 20, 1923
Decided June 11, 1923
262 U.S. 553
1. A justiciable controversy between states, in the sense of the Judiciary Article, is presented when the plaintiff state, relying on the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, seeks to enjoin the defendant state from consummating a purpose, evinced by her statutory enactment, and about to be carried out by her officials, of withdrawing natural gas from an established current of commerce moving from her territory into that of the plaintiff, when such withdrawal is likely to be productive of great injury to the interests of the plaintiff as the proprietor of public institutions and schools in which the gas is largely used, and to private consumers, including most of the inhabitants of many urban communities and a substantial part of the population of the plaintiff state, whose health, comfort, and welfare are seriously jeopardized by the threatened withdrawal of the gas from the interstate stream. P. 262 U. S. 591.
2. Suits by Pennsylvania and Ohio to enjoin West Virginia from enforcing an act of her legislature (c. 71, Acts 1919) intended, through regulation of pipeline companies, to compel the retention
within West Virginia of all natural gas there produced, that might be required for local needs, were not premature in not awaiting an actual test of the act or an order of the public service commission vested by it with functions for its enforcement, since the act contains procedural, penal, and remedial provisions adequate to accomplish its purpose, and the situation when the suits were brought was such that, directly and immediately, it would work a large curtailment of the volume of gas moving into the complaining states and, in a few years, with increasing demand and decreasing production, would work a practical cessation of the interstate stream which it was the object of the suits to protect. P. 262 U. S. 692.
3. In such suits, neither the pipeline companies transporting and supplying the gas nor consumers in the defendant state who would be benefited by an enforcement of the act were essential parties. P. 262 U. S. 595.
4. A state wherein natural gas is produced and is a recognized subject of commercial dealings may not require of those producing and transporting it that, in its sale and disposal, consumers in that state shall be accorded a preferred right of purchase over consumers in other states when the requirement necessarily will operate to withdraw a large volume of the gas from an established interstate current whereby it is supplied in other states to consumers there. P. 262 U. S. 595.
5. The purpose of the Commerce Clause is to protect commercial intercourse from invidious restraints, to prevent interference through conflicting or hostile state laws, and to insure uniformity of regulation. It means that, in the matter of interstate commerce, we are a single Nation -- one and the same people. P. 262 U. S. 596.
G. The transmission of natural gas from one state to another, for sale and consumption in the latter is interstate commerce, and a state law, whether of the state where the gas is produced or of that where it is to be sold, which by its necessary operation prevents, obstructs, or burdens such transmission is a regulation of interstate commerce -- a prohibited interference. P. 262 U. S. 596.
7. The power of a state to require gas pipeline companies to furnish reasonably adequate service within reasonable territorial limits will not enable her to enforce preference to local consumption at the expense of interstate business which has grown up with her sanction and encouragement. P. 262 U. S. 597.
8. Interference with interstate commerce in natural gas cannot be justified upon the ground that it is a measure designed to conserve the gas as a natural product of the state in the interest of her
9. The Court, on full consideration, having reached the conclusion that the West Virginia Act is unconstitutional, and that its intended enforcement will subject the complaining states to injury of serious magnitude, operating with obvious inequity against them, the appropriate decree is one declaring the act invalid and enjoining its enforcement, leaving any needed regulation of the interstate commerce involved to be sought elsewhere. P. 262 U. S. 600.
Decrees for complainants.
These were two suits, brought originally in this Court, to enjoin the defendant state from enforcing an enactment of her legislature (c. 71, Acts 1919) upon the ground that it would curtail or cut off the supply of natural gas produced within her territory and carried by pipelines into the territory of the plaintiff states, and there sold and used for fuel and lighting purposes. The act, and the facts constituting the situation to which it applied, are fully analyzed in the opinion. [Footnote 1]