« ForrigeFortsett »
Opinion of the Court.
tion of defendants that the companies are utilizing and withdrawing from the earth gas at the rate of approximately 10,000,000 cubic feet per day and that the same can never be replaced or restored.
To these averments we may add the affidavits. There is something in them but not enough to reduce the importance of the facts averred. Those on the part of the companies are directed to a great extent to the value of carbon black and its use and the detriment or disaster of the discontinuance or even reduction of its manufacture. And the explicit assertion is that it is absolutely impossible to utilize the heat generated as an incident to its manufacture. A comparison is made with other fuels and the affidavits are explicit in statement that the requirement that the heat contained in them must be "fully and actually applied and utilized" (to use the words of the Wyoming statute) is not only unreasonable but impossible. Figures are given not only of gas engines but of oil, air and steam engines. This is dwelt on at great length and it is declared that it is abolutely impossible to utilize heat generated as an incident to the manufacture of carbon black. And it is said, “If the true test of the waste of gas or any other fuel is whether or not the heat therein contained is fully utilized, it would follow that practically every industrial use of fuel must be characterized as wasteful."
There is also testimony from those familiar with the geological formations, and the production of natural gas in Wyoming, that there are very extensive deposits underlying ten counties, and that their development has scarcely more than commenced and that their potential capacity far exceeds the capacity of the wells now drilled. Further, that the aggregate capacity of the existing wells exceeds 650,000,000 cubic feet per day, and that this production could be largely augmented if the demands for natural gas in the State warranted.
Opinion of the Court.
Opposing affidavits set forth the needs of the towns, present and prospective, and of industries other than carbon black, and that the wells of the companies are drilled into the same sand in which the wells of the Lovell Gas and Electric Company, an industry which furnishes gas and electricity to the town of Lovell, are drilled. The sand is a free flowing sand, that is, one in which the gas has free access from one part of the field to the other, consequently the gas pressure would be approximately the same at all the wells drilled into it. With the operation of the wells of the companies came a diminution of pressure, and "if the present consumption of gas continues for another year, there will not be sufficient gas in this field in the particular sand in question, to supply even the domestic uses of the town of Lovell."
And it is affirmed that the plant of the Midland Gas Company consists of about ninety separate buildings constructed of sheet iron and steel, in such a way that they can be moved more readily than almost any other character of construction and were evidently designed with the idea of portability in mind, and at the present rate of consumption of the gas, they will have to be moved, in any event, within a year. Corroborating figures of the supply and consumption are given, and it is said that if the wells now driven be allowed to flow at their full capacity they will be entirely exhausted in ninety days. The proof of this is said to be that the use of 15,000,000 cubic feet per day of gas produced within the last eighteen months has caused a loss of 57% of the available gas in the producing sand. In contrast, it is estimated, that if the gas consumed at the carbon plant was conserved the supply available for domestic and industrial use in the towns of Lovell and Cowley would last for a period of ten years.
There is speculation as to other basins of deposits of gas and its utility for industries, but which cannot be under-: taken against the depletion by the production of carbon
black. The process to make the latter is said to be simple and is similar to holding a cold plate over an old-fashioned gas jet. In fact, it is said, the process used by the Midland Carbon Company is merely an incomplete combustion of gases in an insufficient amount of air, the flames from the different jets practically touching cast iron channel plates, which are suspended over the flames and are moved backward and forward at a very slow rate of speed. The carbon is scraped off the plates into hoppers and carried to the packing houses by conveyors. All of this is mechanical.
It is testified (by an engineer of the Bureau of Mines in the Interior Department who had made a study of the making of carbon black) that the efficiency of the carbon black industry is very low; that the largest yield of which affiant had any knowledge did not exceed 11⁄2 pounds per 1000 cubic feet of natural gas though it is a well known and chemically ascertained fact that one thousand cubic feet of natural gas contains approximately from 33 to 45 pounds of carbon.
The companies replied with affidavits of opposing tendency and made comparisons of the money value of carbon black with the money value of natural gas, the former being the more valuable. And there is contradiction of the asserted lower pressure of the wells and the tendency to the depletion of the gas, and assertion that other forms of industry can well use coal for fuel.
The affidavits (which we have presented necessarily in barest outline) whether they may be regarded as presenting issues of fact or of judgment, exhibit the conditions which may have moved the policy and legislation of the State. Manifestly, conceding a power to the State of regulation, a comparison of the value of the industries and a judgment upon them as affecting the State, was for it to make. Such comparison may, therefore, be put aside. It may be, as it is deposed, that 1000 cubic feet of natural gas converted into gasoline and carbon black may
Opinion of the Court.
be sold much higher than can be obtained from the same amount of gas sold for fuel purposes, but it does not follow from that fact that the State may not consider, and direct its legislation by the consideration that (and we take the averment of the companies) 1000 cubic feet of natural gas is consumed to produce 134 pounds of carbon black and about 2/10 of a gallon of gasoline. That it may so consider depends upon the question whether its statute is within the principle of the statutes passed on in Ohio Oil Co. v. Indiana, and Lindsley v. Natural Carbonic Gas Co. By reverting to these cases it will be immediately observed that the power of regulation over natural gas is possessed by a State; and in the first case, (Ohio Oil Co. v. Indiana), it was exercised to prohibit the employment of the gas as a means or agency in the production of oil, against an asserted right of property in the ownership of the land upon which the oil was produced, and, therefore, of the oil and gas as incidents of such ownership, which could be used in such manner and quantity as the landowner might choose.
In the Lindsley Case the power of the State was exerted to prohibit the owner of the surface from pumping on his own land, water charged with gas. This was but an exertion, it was said, to preserve from depletion the subterranean supply common to him and other owners, and that the statute, therefore, was not unconstitutional as depriving owners of their property without due process of law. Ohio Oil Co. v. Indiana, as we have pointed out, was cited as a precedent and its principle applied. The case at bar is, we think, within that principle, in other words, the power is exerted to prohibit an extravagant or wasteful or disproportionate use of the natural gas of the State.
We have seen that the method of production by natural gas is like holding a cold plate over a candle, or, as it is expressed by a witness, it can only be produced "by combustion and the impinging of the flame on the metallic sur
Opinion of the Court.
face." And there is great disproportion between the gas and the product, and necessarily there was presented to the judgment and policy of the State a comparison of utilities which involved, as well, the preservation of the natural resources of the State, and the equal participation in them by the people of the State. And the duration of this utility was for the consideration of the State, and we do not think that the State was required by the Constitution of the United States to stand idly by while these resources were disproportionately used, or used in such way that tended to their depletion, having no power of interference.
The cited cases determine otherwise, and that, as the State of Indiana could prevent the exhaustive use of gas in the production of oil, and as the State of New York could prevent the owner of land from using artificial means to obtain the carbonated waters under his land, the State of Wyoming has the same power to prevent the use of natural gas in the production of carbon black, the tendency of which is (it may be the inevitable effect of which is) the exhaustion of the supply of natural gas and the consequent detriment of other uses.
It may be said, however, indeed is said, that the purpose of the act or its effect is a discrimination between producers of carbon black, those ten miles from a town or industrial plant not being within its provisions. We think the classification is justified by the case of Bacon v. Walker, supra, and indeed, by the principles which determine classification.
To the contention that the statute is not one of conservation because carbon black factories are permitted if ten miles distant from a town or industrial plant, the immediate answer is that it is for the State to determine not only if any conservation be necessary but the degree of it, and certainly the companies cannot complain if the State has not exerted its full power.
As we have seen, many affidavits were addressed to the