of the statutory review criteria is said to be indicative of the fact that Congress never intended experiments to be reviewed under these sections. The "elastic clause" in §§ 3622 and 3623, the Postal Service might continue, signifies only Congress' recognition that it may not have thought of every factor relevant to a permanent rate or classification change, not that the sections were designed to cover experimental changes.
This is, we think, a rather wooden approach to statutory construction. It allows statutes little vitality to cover more than the paradigm. Realistically, it is entirely possible that Congress did not explicitly consider the problem of marketplace experiments at all. Neither our research nor that of the parties has uncovered any mention of such experiments in the legislative history. Legislators do not always think of everything; that is why catch-all provisions like 3622(b)(9) and 3623(c)(6) are included in statutes. Our task in such an unprovided for case is to determine how the structure and purpose of the Act applies to the situation. Our modus procedendi is to begin with the statutory language and then to measure that language against what we know of the congressional intent.
Nor do we think that the requirement of APA-style evidentiary hearings forces the Rate Commission into a Procrustean bed unsuited to experimental rate review. We must presume that the Postal Service's decision to conduct a particular experiment with particular conditions was not the product of a fit of whimsy but was based on some objective information and guided toward some articulable goal. Obviously, the Commission could not evaluate the evidence the experiment was designed to generate, but it could review the information on which the initial decision to experiment was based. An evidentiary hearing need not be a meaningless or futile exercise merely because the subject matter is an experimental rate; the policies of the Act can still provide meaningful standards. Further, the means for applying those criteria need not follow the ossified and interminable format the Postal Service fears. Both the Postal Reorganization Act, 39 U.S.C. § 3624(b) and the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 556(c)(5) & (6) contemplate streamlined proceedings to achieve "utmost expedition consistent with procedural fairness to the parties," 39 U.S.C. § 3624(b). Consistently with the APA, the Commission could, and we trust would, tailor the scope and conduct of its hearings considerably when the issue before it is not a nationwide and permanent rate change but a limited and temporary experimental rate change. Indeed, we strongly urge the Commission to formulate and adopt such procedures.
It is not for us, however, to articulate the evidentiary factors the Commission might consider and to erect the procedural structure in which it would conduct its review. Our role is confined to determining whether, consistently with the statutory purposes, Congress might reasonably have intended, as the plain language suggests, that the Postal Service go to the Postal Rate Commission before any rate or mail classifications are changed, experimentally or otherwise. We are satisfied that the requirements of evidentiary hearings as set out in the Postal Reorganization Act could reasonably and consistently with statutory purpose be applied to marketplace experiments.
4. Significance of 39 U.S.C. § 3661
Finally, the Postal Service observes that under 39 U.S.C. § 3661, Postal Rate Commission involvement in service changes is triggered only when the Postal Service plans "a change in the nature of postal services which will generally affect service on a nationwide or substantially nationwide basis . . . ." 39 U.S.C. § 3661(b). Construing this section, the Fifth Circuit has held that, when the issue is changes in postal services, the Act does not require an advisory opinion from the Postal Rate Commission before implementation of the change unless (1) there has been a "change" in a quantitative sense, (2) there has been a meaningful impact on service, and (3) the change affects service on a nationwide or substantially nationwide basis. Buchanan v. United States Postal Service, 508 F.2d 259 (5th Cir. 1975). See also Wilson v. United States Postal Service, 441 F. Supp. 803 (C.D.Calif.1977). The Postal Service apparently contends that these requirements are also applicable to rate and classification changes under §§ 3622 and 3623 in determining whether Rate Commission intervention is mandated. Reply of the United States Postal Service to Plaintiff's Trial Memorandum, 6, 8-16. The Postal Service argues that these requirements are not met in the case of the Service Test Plan and that therefore the Commission need not be consulted.
The basis on which the Postal Service apparently transposes the requirements of § 3661 to §§ 3622 & 3623 is not clear, but presumably the point is that § 3661 provides insight into the congressional conception of the role of the Postal Rate Commission. It is only in the major matters I.e., matters that have nationwide or substantially nationwide impact
the argument continues, that Congress envisioned Rate Commission involvement. The Service's apparent contention is that what Congress made explicit in § 3661 is implicit in §§ 3622 & 3623, and further that, since an experiment of limited scope and temporary duration is not a change of significance on a nationwide scale, Rate Commission review is not mandated.
We have addressed this contention in Part II.A. Supra. As that discussion makes clear, we do not find this argument convincing; indeed, the citation to § 3661 seems to cut in favor of the plaintiffs rather than the Postal Service. If Congress specifically limited Commission involvement in service changes to "nationwide or substantially nationwide" changes, it is apparent that it knew how to circumscribe Commission jurisdiction. Since Congress did not also do so for rate or classification changes, we might as well be justified in taking the different formulations to indicate affirmatively that marketplace experiments involving rate or classification changes are grist for the Commission's mill, whether or not the changes have nationwide or substantially nationwide effect.
The end of our inquiry brings us back to where we began the plain meaning of the statutory language. The Postal Service asks us to hold that a bona fide experiment, although it may in fact involve at least temporarily charging a limited number of shippers new rates, does not constitute a rate change within the meaning of the Postal Reorganization Act. In essence, the argument is that a change in rates under the statute is only a systemwide change; merely because twenty or so shippers' rates have been changed does not mean that there has been a statutory rate change so as to trigger mandatory Rate Commission review. The Postal Service has argued that legislative intent, postal history, the structure of the Act, and broad regulatory context all point to excluding experimental rate changes from the requirements of notice and hearing.
We confess that the Postal Service's argument is not unappealing. The statute is not as statutes seldom are crystal clear, and the legislative purposes seem to meet at cross-currents. In many ways it might well be preferable to permit some measure of marketplace experimentation to the Postal Service without imposing the rigors of Commission review. Perhaps, under some abstract "reasonableness" test the Postal Service would prevail; perhaps, divorced from the statutory framework, we could be convinced that the Postal Service's allocation of responsibility is the more reasonable.
The words of the statute, however, provide the framework for our musings on reasonableness, and those words are inclusive, unmodified, and mandatory. See 39 U.S.C. §§ 3622(a) & 3623(b). Compare 39 U.S.C. § 3661(b). However we align the arguments and considerations, we cannot avoid the fact that the postage rates and mail classifications applicable to the participants in the Service Test Plan have been changed from their previous configuration. An interpretation based on the plain language of the provision at issue does not distinguish between various types of rates and mail classifications. Such an interpretation is not inconsistent with the purposes of the Act or with the structure of the Act as a whole. Although we have explored at great length a number of considerations alleged to militate against application of the plain meaning principle, they have failed to dent its armor.
Moreover, interpretation based on plain meaning does, on its own terms, make sense and positively promote some of the statutory purposes. Faced with plain language that is reasonable in light of the rest of the statute and the legislative intent, the result is clear. When the Postal Service seeks to experiment with the rates postal patrons pay for sending their mail through the postal system, it must first request a recommended decision from the Postal Rate Commission. The permanent injunction requested by the plaintiffs accordingly must issue.