Skinner v. Mid-America Pipeline Company

RESPONDENT:Mid-America Pipeline Company
LOCATION:United States District Court, Western District North Carolina, Charlotte Division

DOCKET NO.: 87-2098
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)

CITATION: 490 US 212 (1989)
ARGUED: Mar 01, 1989
DECIDED: Apr 25, 1989

Richard McMillan, Jr. – on behalf of the Appellee
Thomas W. Merrill – on behalf of the Appellant

Facts of the case


Media for Skinner v. Mid-America Pipeline Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – March 01, 1989 in Skinner v. Mid-America Pipeline Company

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – April 25, 1989 in Skinner v. Mid-America Pipeline Company

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 87-2098, Skinner versus Mid-America Pipeline Company will be announced by Justice O’Connor.

Sandra Day O’Connor:

This case comes to us on appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma.

The appellee, Mid-America Pipeline, owns and operates pipelines transporting hazardous liquids.

As a result, Mid-America is subject to the Hazardous Liquid Pipeline Safety Act, an Act that along with the Natural Gas Pipeline Act is administered by the Secretary of Transportation.

Under a provision of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985, the Secretary of Transportation was required to assess charges against parties regulated by either of the Pipeline Safety Acts in order to recover the full cost of administering the Acts.

This cost recovery provision gives the Secretary discretion to determine a schedule of charges reasonably related to volume-miles, miles, revenues, or an appropriate combination thereof of the natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines.

In 1986, the Secretary assessed Mid-America charges totalling approximately $50,000 calculated on the basis of miles of pipeline owned.

Mid-America paid the charges under protest and sued the Secretary in Federal District Court claiming that the cost recovery provision amounted to an unconstitutional delegation by Congress of its Article I taxing powers to the Executive Branch.

The Secretary appealed the District Court’s decision that the cost recovery provision violated the non-delegation doctrine directly to this Court.

For reasons explained in the opinion filed with the Clerk today, we reaffirm the principle that so long as Congress provides an administrative agency with standards guiding its actions such that a court can ascertain whether the will of Congress has been obeyed, no delegation of legislative authority violating the principle of separation of powers has occurred.

We hold that this standard for measuring congressional delegations of discretionary authority to the Executive applies to delegations under Congress’ taxing power just as it does to Congress’ other enumerated powers.

The cost recovery provision of the Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act at issue here reflects Congress’ intention to delegate discretionary authority to the Secretary of Transportation under its taxing power, and it does provide intelligible guidelines for the exercise of that discretion.

Accordingly, we find no unconstitutional delegation of authority and reverse the District Court’s judgment.

The judgment is unanimous.