The opinion of the court was delivered by: MARIS
The business of the Valvoline Oil Company (hereinafter referred to as the Valvoline) originated in a partnership formed some seventy years ago for the purpose of manufacturing lubricating oil. A small pipe line was constructed near Warren, Pa., through which oil was gathered for shipment in tank cars to the refinery at Edgewater, N.J. Later, a refinery was built at Warren and some of the oil was refined there and some at Edgewater. In 1901 the company was incorporated under the laws of the State of New Jersey and by its charter was authorized to engage in the production, transportation, manufacture, and marketing of petroleum oil and its products, without, however, the right of eminent domain in New Jersey. At the time of its incorporation it was refining about 22,000 barrels of oil per month.
As the demand for lubricating oil grew the pipe line system was gradually extended southward, following the development of new oil fields in Pennsylvania, and in 1909 another and larger refinery was added at East Butler, Pa. The movement of oil in that year amounted to about 55,000 barrels per month. Up to that time all of the oil transported by the Valvoline moved intrastate. Interstate transportation began in 1913 upon the extension of the line from Pennsylvania into West Virginia, and in 1916 the West Virginia-Ohio line was crossed. The last major additions were in 1925 and 1926 when a gathering system serving pools in Ritchie County, W. Va., was purchased and lines were laid in southeastern Ohio. The Valvoline now operates 1,426 miles of pipe line, consisting of 969 miles of 2-inch pipe, 426 miles of 3-inch pipe, and 31 miles of 4-inch pipe. About 50 percent of the oil transported originates in Pennsylvania, 38 percent in West Virginia, and 12 percent in Ohio.
Several other oil pipe lines, both common carrier and private, extend through or are in close proximity to the fields served by the Valvoline. The common carrier pipe lines are the National Transit Company and the South-West Pennsylvania Pipe Lines, in Pennsylvania, the Eureka Pipe Line Company, in West Virginia, and the Buckeye Pipe Line Company, in Ohio. None of the companies serves the wells from which the Valvoline receives its oil.
The Valvoline is not a producer of oil. From the inception of the enterprise it has been its practice to purchase all of the crude oil used by it directly from the producers in the field. It carries, therefore, only oil of which it is the owner. For its manufacturing purposes it prefers a selected grade of a light amber color and some of the oils produced along its lines are not satisfactory because too dark or because they contain undesirable ingredients difficult to eliminate in the refiing process. It refuses to buy or admit into its lines oils that do not meet its specifications and the producers thereof must therefore find an outlet through other pipe lines and sales to other refiners. Several instances of rejections of oil by the Valvoline are mentioned in the record. Any producer, however, within reasonable distance of the Valvoline's lines, having oil of the desired quality and not already receiving pipe line service, is afforded a market for his oil through sale to the Valvoline, and if his well is located in Ohio or West Virginia, or in Pennsylvania south of the Butler-Allegheny county line, he receives a premium of 5 cents par barrel over the posted market price.
In November, 1937, the pipe lines of the Valvoline were serving exclusively 9,020 wells, of which 6,291 were in Pennsylvania, 1,370 in West Virginia, and 1,359 in Ohio. These are generally so-called stripper wells from which the average daily run is 0.20 barrel in Pennsylvania, 0.56 barrel in West Virginia, and 0.25 barrel in Ohio. The oil was then being collected in 2,678 tanks owned by the producers and located on 2,075 farms. Because of the slow accumulation of the oil many of these tanks are drained as infrequently as once a year and in some instances only once in four years. The Valvoline serves actually less than 500 producers or groups, but by reason of fractional interests in royalties and leases it has dealings with and accounts to 2,014 royalty owners and 1,751 lease operators for the oil it purchases. These owners and operators have no other present outlet for their oil. According to testimony of record, in the event the Valvoline should refuse to accept it, they could receive service from one of the common carrier pipe line companies provided they were able to tender at least 5 barrels per day per mile of pipe line extension necessary to make the connection. In view of the fact that the average run of oil from all the wells served by the Valvoline is but little over half a barrel per day, this requirement would undoubtedly deprive many of the producers of a pipe line outlet and market for their oil.
In 1932 economic conditions brought about a curtailment of operations and the refinery at Warren was closed. The Valvoline, instead of limiting its purchases to the quantity of oil that could be refined at East Butler, continued as before to purchase all oil of suitable grade offered, with the result that it received and has continued to receive an excess of oil over its ability to refine. Having no use for this oil in its own operations it entered into arrangements with the Pennsylvania Refining Company at Karns City, Pa., and with the Ohio Valley Refining Company at St. Marys, W. Va., under which it sells and delivers to those companies the excess of oil over its own requirements. The oil sold to the Pennsylvania Refining Company all originates in Pennsylvania and its movement through the Valvoline's lines is intrastate. At the time of the first hearing before the Interstate Commerce Commission some of the oil sold to the Ohio Valley Refining Company originated in Ohio and moved across the Ohio-West Virginia state line. Sale of the Ohio oil was thereafter discontinued and deliveries to the plant at St. Marys now consist exclusively of oil originating in West Viginia. In both instances the oil is sold at delivered prices which incliude amounts to cover the cost of transportation.
On December 31, 1934 the Commission issued a general order known as Valuation Order No. 26 requiring all pipe line companies subject to the Interstate Commerce Act, 49 U.S.C. c. 1, § 1 et seq., to prepare and file with the Commission maps, charts and schedules of their property not less than sixty days after written notice from the Commission. The Valvoline was served with such notice in January, 1936, whereupon it petitioned the Commission to determine its status, asserting that it was not subject to the act. After hearing the Commission, by Division 1, issued a report on February 2, 1937, holding that the Valvoline was engaged in the transportation of oil by pipe line in interstate commerce, that it was a common carrier subject to the provisions of the Interstate Commerce Act and that it should, therefore, comply with Valuation Order No. 26.
Thereafter the Valvoline, having ceased the sale to the Ohio Valley Refining Company of oil transported from Ohio to West Virginia, petitioned for and was granted a rehearing before the full Commission and on June 6, 1938 the Commission filed its report again finding that the Valvoline was a common carrier of oil by pipe line and subject to the provisions of the Interstate Commerce Act. The Commission accordingly affirmed its original report and on the same day entered an order directing the Valvoline to comply with the provisions of Valuation Order No. 26 within ninety days. The present suit was brought to set aside this order. After the commencement of the suit the Commission extended the time for compliance with its order for a further period of ninety days.
The question for determination in this case is whether the Valvoline Oil Company is a common carrier within the meaning of the Interstate Commerce Act to the extent that the Commission may require it to file maps and other information required for the valuation by the Commission of its pipe line property.
The pertinent provisions of the Interstate Commerce Act, as amended, 49 U.S.C. c. 1, § 1 et seq., under which the ...