on the complaint in Docket No. 31045, Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc. v. The Virginian Railway Company, et al.
Plaintiff's petitions for reconsideration and intervention were related only to Ex Parte No. 175, Increased Freight Rates, 1951, and participated as an intervenor restricted to the ex parte proceeding alone.
On May 12, 1953, plaintiff filed a complaint before the Interstate Commerce Commission against the southern railroads, which proceeding has been assigned docket No. 31264, seeking to have the rates involved in the instant action declared invalid and also seeking reparations for the alleged illegal charges by The Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Company and others for coal shipped from the southern mines to Hampton Roads for movement by water in coastwise service to plaintiff's Seaboard plant. Said complaint is presently pending before the Commission.
Plaintiff's suit before this court seeks to have the court direct the Commission to grant the relief sought in plaintiff's petition for reconsideration initially filed before the Commission, which is to require the southern carriers to maintain the same rate on transportation of coal from the southern mines to Hampton Roads ports for subsequent transshipment by water, whether the ultimate destination is the plaintiff's plant at Seaboard, New Jersey, or its competitors located at New England ports.
It is contended that the Commission's report and order 'Ex parte No. 175, Increased Freight Rates, 1951; resulting from the findings of the Commission in that proceeding, whereby permissive increases in tariff form had become effective bestowing upon receivers of coal located at New England ports a twenty-cent lower rail rate for the transportation of coal from the mines to Hampton Roads ports than competing receivers located at less distant points, was unreasonable, discriminatory and unduly prejudicial.
The crucial issue, therefore, is whether this court may set aside and annul a permissive order entered by the Commission when plaintiff has failed to exhaust his remedy under Sections 13 and 15 of the Interstate Commerce Act, but has interceded as an intervenor for reconsideration and modification of the Commission's findings.
In the case of a permissive order, the carrier is the only necessary party to the proceeding. The Commission represents the public. While it is proper and customary for shippers interested to participate in hearings, there exists no provision for notice to them. They are not bound by the order entered and the tariffs filed. If the rates made by tariffs filed under the authority granted seem to them unreasonable, or unjustly discriminatory, Sections 13 and 15 afford ample remedy. To permit shippers to seek redress for such grievances in the courts would invade and often nullify the administrative authority vested in the Commission. The attempt of the court to remove some alleged unjust discrimination might result in creating more. United States v. Merchants' & Manufacturers' Traffic Association, 1916, 242 U.S. 178, 37 S. Ct. 24, 61 L. Ed. 233.
Sections 13 and 15 of the Act speak with clarity, and explicitly specify the procedure which complaints must pursue before the Commission in order to seek redress of grievances.
The plaintiff has mistaken its remedy in the statutory scheme of railroad rate making. Its contention is that the Commission, without sufficient evidence or proper findings of fact, has determined or fixed particular rates for the plaintiff's particular traffic. But this misconceives what the Commission has actually done. It was not dealing finally with particular rates for particular traffic, but permitting increased rates for selected commodities, by a general order affecting all the railroads in the country.
If the increased rates as applied to the plaintiff's particular situation can be shown to be unjust and unreasonable, its remedy is clearly by proceedings under Sections 13 and 15 of the Act for individual relief, and for reparation orders under the Act of Congress. 49 U.S.C.A. § 16(1); Brimstone R. & Canal Co. v. United States, 1928, 276 U.S. 104, 48 S. Ct. 282, 72 L. Ed. 487; Alexander Sprunt & Son v. United States, 1930, 281 U.S. 249, 50 S. Ct. 315, 74 L. Ed. 832; Eagle Cotton Oil Co. v. Southern R. Co., 5 Cir., 51 F.2d 443, certiorari denied, 1931, 284 U.S. 675, 52 S. Ct. 130, 76 L. Ed. 571; Algoma Coal & Coke Co. v. United States, D.C.E.D.Va.1935, 11 F.Supp. 487. The plaintiff must proceed to exhaust its administrative remedies by challenging the rates filed by the railroads pursuant to the authorization granted it by the Commission in the ex parte proceeding.
The plaintiff has filed such a complaint which was assigned Docket No. 31264. The plaintiff must pursue this complaint to a final conclusion before the Commission before it may maintain an action in this court attacking the rates now in dispute.
It is not for this court to tinker with the delicate and fragile machinery of rate fixing and rate apportionment until the administrative process has been meticulously and stringently followed and exhausted in accordance with statutory requirement. The Commission must be afforded every available opportunity to utilize its vast reservoir of knowledge, experience, and know-how -- in a proceeding wherein an unequivocal compliance with Sections 13 and 15 has been made with a complaint filed and defendant or defendants served, and clear-cut adversary contests evaluates and conclusively ruled upon, before the arm of the court should intercede upon the merits.
It is our considered judgment that the motion of plaintiff to strike the First Defense asserted by the Commission and the intervening railroads should be refused.
An appropriate order is entered.