Watt v. Energy Action Education Foundation

PETITIONER: Watt
RESPONDENT: Energy Action Education Foundation
LOCATION: A truck stop

DOCKET NO.: 80-1464
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

CITATION: 454 US 151 (1981)
ARGUED: Oct 05, 1981
DECIDED: Dec 01, 1981

ADVOCATES:
John Silard - on behalf of the Respondents
Louis F. Claiborne - on behalf of the Petitioners

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Watt v. Energy Action Education Foundation

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 05, 1981 in Watt v. Energy Action Education Foundation

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - December 01, 1981 in Watt v. Energy Action Education Foundation

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in Number 80-1464, Watt, the Secretary of Interior against the Energy Action Educational Foundation will be announced by Justice O'Connor.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

This case concerns the bidding systems the Secretary of the Interior must use in the leasing by auction of oil and gas tracts on the Outer Continental Shelf.

Prior to the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act Amendments of 1978, the Secretary almost always auctioned leases on the Outer Continental Shelf on the basis of a fixed royalty with the bidding on the amount of an initial cash bonus to be paid when the lease was awarded.

This system required large front-end payments by the successful bidder.

As a result that ran into criticism in Congress because it required such large amounts of capital that small and medium size oil companies often could not afford to participate.

In response, Congress passed the 1978 Amendments which authorized the Secretary to experiment with the use of a variety of new bidding systems.

The present suit was brought under the 1978 Amendments by the State of California in the City of Long Beach joined by various consumer organizations and private individuals.

They challenged the Secretary’s failure to experiment with certain of these new bidding systems.

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit agreed with California and the other plaintiffs that the 1978 Amendments require the Secretary to experiment with these bidding systems, but we reversed.

We read the amendments to leave the selection of bidding systems to the Secretary’s discretion subject of course to congressional oversight.

The opinion is unanimous.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Justice O'Connor.