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NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR ADVANCEMENT COLORED PEOPLE ET AL. v. FEDERAL POWER COMMISSION

*fn*: May 19, 1976.

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE ET AL
v.
FEDERAL POWER COMMISSION



CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT

Burger, Brennan, Stewart, White, Blackmun, Powell, Rehnquist, Stevens; Marshall took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Author: Stewart

[ 425 U.S. Page 663]

 MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

The issue in this case is to what extent, if any, the Federal Power Commission, in the performance of its functions under the Federal Power Act, 41 Stat. 1063, as amended, 16 U.S.C. § 791a et seq. (Power Act), and the Natural Gas Act, 52 Stat. 821, as amended, 15 U.S.C. § 717 et seq. (Gas Act), has authority to prohibit discriminatory employment practices on the part of its regulatees.

[ 425 U.S. Page 664]

     I

In 1972 the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and several other organizations petitioned the Commission to issue a rule "requiring equal employment opportunity and nondiscrimination in the employment practices of its regulatees." The proposed rule would have required the regulated companies to adopt affirmative action programs to combat discrimination in employment and would have given any person who believed himself to have been subjected to employment discrimination by any such company the right to file a complaint with the Commission.*fn1

The Commission refused to adopt the proposed rule, holding that it had no jurisdiction to do so because "the purposes of the Natural Gas and Federal Power Acts are economic regulation of entrepreneurs engaged in resource developments. So considered, we do not find the necessary nexus between those aspects of our economic regulatory activities and the employment procedures of the utility systems which we regulate, as would justify [adopting petitioners' proposed rule]." 48 F.P.C. 40, 44.

On petition for review, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit agreed that the Commission was without "power... to prescribe personnel practices in detail and to receive complaints, adjudicate them, and punish directly infractions of those practices." 172 U.S. App. D.C. 32, 35, 520 F.2d 432, 435. The court held, however, that the Commission does have "power to take

[ 425 U.S. Page 665]

     into account, in the performance of its regulatory functions, including licensing and rate review, evidence that the regulatee is a demonstrated discriminator in its employment relations." Ibid.

Because of doubt as to the Commission's recognition of any power on its part to take into account the employment practices of its regulatees even in the narrower sense described above, the Court of Appeals vacated the Commission's order and remanded the case. Id., at 47, 520 F.2d, at 447. The Commission and the NAACP each petitioned for certiorari, and we granted both petitions in order to consider the scope of the Commission's authority to deal with discriminatory employment practices on the part of the companies that it regulates. 423 U.S. 890.

II

The question presented is not whether the elimination of discrimination from our society is an important national goal. It clearly is. The question is not whether Congress could authorize the Federal Power Commission to combat such discrimination. It clearly could. The question is simply whether or to what extent Congress did grant the Commission such authority. Two possible statutory bases have been advanced to justify the conclusion that the Commission can or must concern itself with discriminatory employment practices on the part of the companies it regulates.*fn2

[ 425 U.S. Page 666]

     The first of these statutory bases is the legislative command to the Commission under the Power and Gas Acts to establish "just and reasonable" rates for the transmission and sale of electric energy, 16 U.S.C. § 824d (a), and for the transportation and sale of natural gas, 15 U.S.C. § 717c (a), and, consequently, to allow only such rates as will prevent consumers from being charged any unnecessary or illegal costs.*fn3 The second and broader statutory basis advanced for Commission regulation of employment discrimination is the Commission's asserted duty to advance the public interest. The NAACP notes that Congress found that "the business of transmitting and selling electric energy for ultimate distribution to the public is affected with a public interest," 16 U.S.C. § 824(a), and that "the business of transporting and selling natural gas for ultimate distribution to the public is affected with a public interest," 15 U.S.C. § 717 (a). From these and other references to the "public interest" in the Gas and Power Acts,*fn4 it is argued that the Commission is ...


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