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Stuart Lindsley v. Natural Carbonic Gas Company

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United States Supreme Court

220 U.S. 61

Stuart Lindsley  v.  Natural Carbonic Gas Company

 Argued: January 3 and 4, 1911. --- Decided: March 13, 1911

By a bill in equity exhibited in the circuit court, the appellant, as owner and holder of capital stock and bonds of the Natural Carbonic Gas Company, sought a decree enjoining that company from obeying, and the other defendants from enforcing, a statute of the state of New York, approved May 20, 1908, entitled, 'An Act for the Protection of the Natural Mineral Springs of the State, and to Prevent Waste and Impairment of Its Natural Mineral Waters,' and containing, among others, this provision: 'Pumping, or otherwise drawing by artificial appliance, from any well made by boring or drilling into the rock, that class of mineral waters holding in solution natural mineral salts and an excess of carbonic acid gas, or pumping, or by any artificial contrivance whatsoever in any manner producing, an unnatural flow of carbonic acid gas issuing from or contained in any well made by boring or drilling into the rock, for the purpose of extracting, collecting, compressing, liquifying, or vending such gas as a commodity otherwise than in connection with the mineral water and the other mineral ingredients with which it was associated, is hereby declared to be unlawful.' Laws 1908, vol. 2, chap. 429, p. 1221.

In addition to what properly may be passed without special mention, the bill alleges that the gas company owns 21 acres of lands in Saratoga Springs, New York, which contain mineral waters of the class specified in the statute; that these waters are percolating waters, not naturally flowing to or upon the surface, and can be reached and lifted to the surface only by means of pumps or other artificial appliances; that the gas company is engaged in collecting natural carbonic acid gas from these waters, and in compressing and selling the gas as a separate commodity; that this business has come to be both large and lucrative, and as a necessary incident to its successful prosecution the gas company has sunk upon its land wells of great depth, made by boring or drilling into the underlying rock, and has fitted these wells with tubing, seals, and pumps, whereby it lifts the waters and the gas contained therein to the surface; that these pumps do not exercise any force of compulsion upon waters in or under adjoining lands, but lift to the surface only such waters as flow by reason of the laws of nature into the wells, that when the waters are lifted to the surface, the excess of carbonic acid gas therein naturally escapes and is caught and compressed preparatory to its sale, none thereof being wasted, and no process being employed to increase the natural separation of the excess of gas from the waters; and that many other landowners in Saratoga Springs have like wells, which are operated in a like way, with a like purpose.

It also is alleged that the gas company bottles and sells for drinking purposes and for use by invalids and others all of the mineral waters pumped from its wells 'for which there is any market or demand,' but there is no allegation of the extent of this market or demand, and it was conceded in argument that a large proportion of the waters pumped from the company's wells is not used, but is suffered to run to waste.

In terms the bill predicates the right to the relief sought upon the claim that the state statute deprives the appellant and others of property without due process of law, and denies to them the equal protection of the laws, and therefore is violative of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

In the circuit court the defendants other than the gas company demurred to the bill, the demurrers were sustained (170 Fed. 1023), and a decree dismissing the bill was entered, whereupon this appeal was prayed and

allowed.

Messrs. Guthrie B. Plante, Edgar T. Brackett, Robert C. Morris, and Alton B. Parker for appellant.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 64-68 intentionally omitted]

Messrs. Nash Rockwood, Charles C. Lester, and Edward R. O'Malley for appellees.

Statement by Mr. Justice Van Devanter:

[Argument of Counsel from pages 68-72 intentionally omitted]

Mr. Justice Van Devanter, having made the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court:

NotesEdit

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).