Trans Alaska Pipeline Rate Cases

PETITIONER:Trans Alaska Pipeline Rate Cases
LOCATION:Tellico Dam

DOCKET NO.: 77-452
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 436 US 631 (1978)
ARGUED: Mar 28, 1978
DECIDED: Jun 06, 1978

Avrum M. Gross – for respondents
Andrew J. Kilcarr – for petitioners
Frank H. Easterbrook – for respondents
Richard J. Flynn – for petitioners

Facts of the case


Media for Trans Alaska Pipeline Rate Cases

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – March 28, 1978 in Trans Alaska Pipeline Rate Cases

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 06, 1978 in Trans Alaska Pipeline Rate Cases

Warren E. Burger:

The two opinions will be announced by Mr. Justice Brennan; one what is called Trans Alaska Pipeline Rates cases and the other, Monell against the Department of social services of New York.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

The Trans Alaska Pipeline Rates cases which I hear from the court of appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

When the Trans Alaska Pipeline was completed, seven of its eight oil company owners filed their tariffs with the Interstate Commerce Commission setting out initial rates and the rules to govern transportation of oil over from Prudhoe Bay and Alaskan Arctic to the all-weather port of Valdez on Alaska’s Pacific coast.

The rates were met immediately by several formal protests that there were excessive and the Interstate Commerce Commission, acting under Section 15 (7) of the Interstate Commerce Act, suspended the rates for the full seven months allowed by that Section because the Commission found that it would be in the public interest, if the system closed for seven months.

The Commission estimated rates that approximated what its judgment full investigation would likely reveal to be lawful rates and stated that it would not suspend interim rates that specified rates no higher than those estimated.

However, since the estimated rates might still “exceed reasonable levels,” the Commission also stated that any interim tariffs must provide for refunds of any amounts found later to be in excess of lawful rates.

And on petition for review, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit sustained the Commission action and rejected as without merit, three arguments made by the petitioners here.

First, that the Commission had no statutory authority under Section 15 (7) to suspend initial rates, but authority only to suspend changes in existing tariffs.

Second, that the Commission had no statutory authority ancillary to the suspension power to set out without an adjudicatory hearing maximum interim rates which it would allow to go into effect during the suspension period and third and finally that the Commission had no authority to condition a decision not to suspend tariffs on a requirement that the carriers, tariffs were allowed to go into effect be prepared to make refunds of any amounts collected whether under initially proposed or interim tariffs which were later determined after full hearing to be unlawful.

We in agreement with the Court of Appeals of the Fifth Circuit, also find no merit in these arguments of petitioners and therefore affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

Mr. Justice Powell took no part in the consideration of decision of these cases.