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Chemehuevi Tribe of Indians v. Federal Power Com.

Supreme Court of the United States

January 13, 1975, Argued ; March 3, 1975, Decided 1

No. 73-1380

Opinion

 [*396]   [***282]   [**1069]  MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

 In these three cases we review a single judgment of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to  [*397]  determine whether thermal-electric power generating plants that draw cooling water from navigable  [***283]  streams are subject to the licensing jurisdiction of the Federal Power Commission under Part I of the Federal Power Act, c. 285, 41 Stat. 1063, as amended, 16 U. S. C. §§ 791a-823.

On September 20, 1971, two Indian tribes, five individual Indians, and two environmental groups 3 (hereinafter the complainants) filed a complaint with the Commission requesting it to require 10 public utility companies located in the Southwestern United States 4 to obtain licenses for six fossil-fueled thermal-electric generating plants being constructed by the companies along the Colorado River and its tributaries. 5 The plants are part of a projected vast electric power complex, and the energy generated within  [****5]  this new Southwestern  [*398]  power pool will be transmitted in interstate commerce to load centers as far as 600 miles from the sites of the plants.

 [****6]  The six plants involved in these cases, like all thermal-electric power plants, will require large amounts of water to cool and condense the steam utilized in the process of generating electricity. See generally 1 FPC, The 1970 National Power Survey I-10-1 to I-10-20. The water needed for cooling purposes will be obtained by withdrawing substantial quantities of water from the Colorado River system. The complaint filed with the Commission asserted that it had licensing jurisdiction over the plants pursuant to § 4 (e) of Part I of the Federal Power Act, 16 U. S. C. § 797 (e), because all six plants are "project works" for the development, transmission, and utilization of power across and along navigable waters, and because two of the plants will use "surplus water" impounded by a Government dam. 6

 [****7]  The  [***284]   [**1070]  Commission on November 4, 1971, issued an order dismissing the complaint for lack of jurisdiction. The  [*399]  Commission stated that "the legislative history [of the original Federal Water Power Act] shows that it was not intended that the licensing of thermal stations be included. This construction of the Commission's licensing jurisdiction under Part I of the Federal Power Act has been the long-standing interpretation of the Commission [and] has been recognized favorably by the Supreme Court." 46 F. P. C. 1126, 1127 (citations omitted).

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420 U.S. 395 *; 95 S. Ct. 1066 **; 43 L. Ed. 2d 279 ***; 1975 U.S. LEXIS 129 ****; 7 ERC (BNA) 1529; 8 P.U.R.4th 57; 5 ELR 20224

CHEMEHUEVI TRIBE OF INDIANS ET AL. v. FEDERAL POWER COMMISSION ET AL.

Prior History:  [****1]  CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT.

Disposition:  160 U. S. App. D. C. 83, 489 F.2d 1207, vacated and remanded.

CORE TERMS

plants, licensing, surplus, hydroelectric, thermal-electric, navigable, dam, electric, commerce, steam, interstate, Waterways, energy, water-power, streams, lease, transmission, cooling, Annual, River

Energy & Utilities Law, Regulators, US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, General Overview, Constitutional Law, Congressional Duties & Powers, Commerce Clause, Pipelines & Transportation, Electricity Transmission, Transportation Law, Interstate Commerce, Federal Powers, Business & Corporate Compliance, Energy & Utilities Law, Hydroelectric Power Industry, Licensing, Electric Power Industry, Federal Power Act, Administrative Proceedings, Judicial Review