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U.S. Supreme Court

Chemehuevi Tribe of Indians v. FPC, 420 U.S. 395 (1975)

Chemehuevi Tribe of Indians v. Federal Power Commission

No. 73-1380

Argued January 13, 1975

Decided March 3, 1975*

420 U.S. 395


Under § 4(e) of Part I of the Federal Power Act, the Federal Power Commission (FPC) is authorized to issue licenses to individuals, corporations, or governmental units organized for the purpose of constructing

"project works necessary or convenient . . . for the development, transmission, and utilization of power across, along, from, or in any of the streams or other bodies of water over which Congress has jurisdiction . . or for the purpose of utilizing the surplus water or water power from any Government dam. . . ."

Section 23(b) prohibits the unlicensed construction of such works on any navigable stream, as well as the unlicensed utilization of such surplus water for the purposes of developing electric power.

Held: These provisions of Part I of the Act giving the FPC licensing jurisdiction over hydroelectric facilities do not also confer such jurisdiction over thermal electric power plants. Pp. 420 U. S. 400-422.

(a) The structures constituting thermal electric power plants are not "project works" within the meaning of § 4(e), as is clear from the language of that provision when read together with the rest of the Act (none of whose provisions refers to the development or conservation of steam power), the Act's legislative history (which manifests a congressional intent to regulate only hydroelectric generating facilities), the FPC's consistent interpretation of its authority as not including jurisdiction over thermal electric power plants, and this Court's decision in FPC v. Union Electric Co., 381 U. S. 90. Pp. 420 U. S. 400-412.

(b) The surplus water clause of § 4(e) does not authorize FPC licensing of water used for cooling purposes in thermal electric power plants, nothing in the Act's language or legislative history disclosing any congressional intent that that clause should serve any broader interests than the project works clause. And, contrary

Page 420 U. S. 396

to the Court of Appeals' holding, the Act does not vest the FPC with all the responsibilities that, prior legislation had given to the Waterways Commission, responsibilities that, in any case did not include licensing the use of surplus water by steam plants. Pp. 420 U. S. 412-422.

160 U.S.App.D.C. 83, 489 F.2d 1207, vacated and remanded.

STEWART, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all other Members joined except DOUGLAS, J., who took no part in the consideration or decision of the cases.

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