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Statement of the Case.
OHIO OIL COMPANY v. INDIANA (NO. 1).
ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF INDIANA.
No. 84. Argued December 18, 19, 1899. - Decided April 9, 1900.
The provision in the act of March 4, 1893, of the State of Indiana "that it shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation having possession or control of any natural gas or oil well, whether as a contractor, owner, lessee, agent or manager, to allow or permit the flow of gas or oil from any such well to escape into the open air without being confined within such well or proper pipes, or other safe receptacle, for a longer period than two days next after gas or oil shall have been struck in such well; and thereafter all such gas or oil shall be safely and securely confined in such well, pipes or other safe and proper receptacles," is not a violation of the Constitution of the United States; and its enforcement as to persons whose obedience to its commands were coerced by injunction, is not a taking of private property without adequate compensation, and does not amount to a denial of due process of law, contrary to the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, but is only a regulation by the State of Indiana of a subject which espe cially comes within its lawful authority.
THE title, preamble and first section of a law enacted March 4, 1893, by the State of Indiana, (Acts of 1893, c. 36, p. 300,) are as follows:
"An act concerning the sinking, safety, maintenance, use and operation of natural gas and oil wells, prescribing penalties and declaring an emergency.
"Whereas, great danger to life, and injury to persons and property is liable to result from the improper, unsafe and negligent sinking, maintenance, use and operation of natural gas and oil wells; therefore,
"SECTION 1. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Indiana, That it shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation having possession or control of any natural gas or oil well, whether as a contractor, owner, lessee, agent or manager, to allow or permit the flow of gas or oil from any such well to escape into the open air, without being confined within
Statement of the Case.
such well or proper pipes or other safe receptacle, for a longer period than two (2) days next after gas or oil shall have been struck in such well. And thereafter all such gas or oil shall be safely and securely confined in such well, pipes or other safe and proper receptacles."
The remaining sections of the law in question are printed in the margin.1
1SEC. 2. Whenever any well shall have been sunk for the purpose of obtaining natural gas or oil or exploring for the same, and shall be abandoned or cease to be operated for utilizing the flow of gas or oil therefrom, it shall be the duty of any person, firm or corporation having the custody or control of such well at the time of such abandonment or cessation of use, and also of the owner or owners of the land wherein such well is situated, to properly and securely stop and plug the same as follows: If such well has not been "shot" there shall be placed in the bottom of the hole thereof a plug of well-seasoned pine wood, the diameter of which shall be within one half inch as great as the hole of such well, to extend at least three feet above the salt water level, where salt water has been struck; where no salt water has been struck, such plug shall extend at least three feet from the bottom of the well. In both cases such wooden plugs shall be thoroughly rammed down and made tight by the use of drilling tools. After such ramming and tightening the hole of such well shall be filled on top of such plug with finely broken stone or sand, which shall be well rammed to a point at least four feet above the Trenton limestone, or any other gas or oil bearing rock; on top of this stone or sand there shall be placed another wooden plug at least five feet long with the diameter as aforesaid, which shall be thoroughly rammed and tightened. In case such well shall have been "shot," the bottom of the hole thereof shall be filled with a proper and sufficient mixture of sand, stone and dry cement, so as to form a concrete up to a point at least eight feet above the top of the gas or oil-bearing rock or rocks, and on top of this filling shall be placed a wooden plug at least six feet long, with diameter as aforesaid, which shall be properly rammed as aforesaid. The casing from the well shall then be pulled or withdrawn therefrom, and immediately thereafter a cast-iron ball eight inches in diameter shall be dropped in the well and securely rammed into the shale by the driller or owner of the well, after which not less than one cubic yard of sand pumping or drilling taken from the well shall be put on top of said iron ball. SEC. 3. Any person or corporation violating any of the provisions of this act shall be liable to a penalty of two hundred dollars for each and every such violation, and to the further penalty of two hundred dollars for each ten days during which such violation shall continue; and all such penalties shall be recoverable in a civil action or actions, in the name of the State of Indiana, for the use of the county in which such well shall be located, together with reasonable attorneys' fees and costs of suit.
Statement of the Case.
The issue which this record presents, on the subject of the law just referred to, is this: Did the enforcement of the first section of the statute produce as to the persons whose obedience to its commands were coerced by injunction, a taking of private property without adequate compensation; that is, did the execution of the statute amount to a denial of due process of law contrary to the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United Statutes?
The controversy was thus initiated. The State of Indiana, through its attorney general, filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of the county of Madison in the State of Indiana, against the Ohio Oil Company, a corporation organized under the laws of the State of Ohio, but authorized to carry on its business in the State of Indiana, as it had complied with the regulations enacted by that State as to foreign corporations doing business therein. The cause of complaint was thus stated:
"Plaintiff says that for many years heretofore there has
SEC. 4. Whenever any person or corporation in possession or control of any well in which natural gas or oil has been found shall fail to comply with the provisions of this act, any person or corporation lawfully in possession of lands situate adjacent to or in the vicinity or neighborhood of such well may enter upon the lands upon which such well is situate and take possession of such well from which gas or oil is allowed to escape in violation of the provisions of section one of this act, and pack and tube such well and shut in and secure the flow of gas or oil, and maintain a civil action in any court of competent jurisdiction in this State against the owner, lessee, agent or manager of said well, and each of them jointly and severally, to recover the cost and expense of such tubing and packing, together with attorneys' fees and costs of suit. This shall be in addition to the penalties provided by section three of this act.
SEC. 5. Whenever any person or corporation shall abandon or cease to operate any natural gas or oil well, and shall fail to comply with the provisions of section two of this act, any person or corporation lawfully in possession of lands adjacent to or in the vicinity or neighborhood of such well may enter upon the lands upon which such well is situate and take possession of such well, and plug and fill the same in the manner provided by section two of this act, and may maintain a civil action in any court of competent jurisdiction of this State against the person, persons or corporation so failing, jointly and severally, to recover the costs and expenses of such plugging and filling, together with attorneys' fees and costs of suit. This shall be in addition to the penalties provided by section three of this act.
Statement of the Case.
existed, underlying the counties of Madison, Grant, Howard, Delaware, Blackford, Tipton, Hamilton, Wells and other counties of the State of Indiana, a large subterranean deposit of natural gas, occupying a reservoir of large extent, with well-defined boundaries, and utilized for fuel and light by the people of those counties and many other counties and cities of Indiana, including Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Richmond, Logansport, Anderson, Muncie, Marion, Kokomo, and others of the most populous cities of said State, to which cities said gas is conducted, after being brought to the surface of the earth, through pipes and conduits, by means of which many hundreds of thousands of the people of the State of Indiana are now, and have been for more than ten years last past, continuously supplied with gas for light and fuel; that said natural gas, underlying the counties aforesaid and other portions of the State, is contained in and percolates freely through a stratum of rock known as Trenton rock, comprising a vast reservoir in which the gas is confined under great pressure and from which it escapes, when it is permitted to do so, with great force.
"The fuel supplied by the natural gas thus obtained is the cheapest and best known to civilization, and the value of the natural gas deposit to the State and to its citizens is many millions of dollars; that since the discovery of said gas deposit in 1886 immense sums of money have come into the State and have been invested in large manufacturing interests, and other vasts sums of money belonging to the people of the State of Indiana have been invested in similar enterprises, causing a great increase in the population, principally in the territory underlying which said gas is found. Many cities in and adjacent to the gas territory, including those named, are wholly dependent for fuel upon natural gas, and for that reason the people of the State of Indiana have become and are interested in the protection and continued preservation of the natural gas supply; that many millions of dollars invested in manufacturing and other properties in and near said gas territory are wholly dependent for their continued preservation and for the permanent value of their property upon said natural gas supply; that their location and establishment in said gas territory was due
Statement of the Case.
to the presence of natural gas underlying the same, without which such enterprises could not operate at a profit, and that in the event the supply of gas should be exhausted in said territory many of such manufacturing enterprises, in which thousands of the citizens of Indiana find employment at remunerative wages, will be compelled to stop operation.
"That their employés will be thereby thrown out of employment, and many of them, being dependent upon their labor for support, may and will become charges upon the State and its several municipal subdivisions; that the property of said manufacturing enterprises and the vast investments depending upon them and related to them will become worthless and the owners will be driven to remove to other parts of the country, taking away from Indiana great wealth now interested in said enterprises as aforesaid.
"That in the cities named and in all the territory known as the 'gas belt' the inhabitants have for years used practically no other fuel than natural gas; that their houses have, in many instances, been constructed with a view to the use of such fuel, and will have to be differently equipped before other kinds of fuel can be used; that the cost of natural gas as fuel to the people of the 'gas belt,' who number several hundreds of thousands, is very much less than that of any other fuel that has ever been or can be procured by them, and that to the other inhabitants of the State using said natural gas it has become and is a source of great convenience, comfort and increased happiness, because of its cheapness, convenience and cleanliness as fuel.
"That many small villages in and near the gas territory have within a few years become flourishing and opulent cities.
"That the State's wealth and its revenues derived from taxation on account of such increased population and the various interests that have been fostered and supported by natural gas have been greatly increased, and will, in the event natural gas gives out, be correspondingly curtailed.
"That the State of Indiana, relying upon the permanent supply of natural gas, has at great expense equipped many of its public institutions, including the state-house, the Central and