State of Ala. v. Tennessee Valley Authority

Decision Date25 January 1979
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 77-M-0377.
Citation467 F. Supp. 791
PartiesSTATE OF ALABAMA ex rel. William J. BAXLEY, as Attorney General of the State of Alabama, Plaintiff, v. TENNESSEE VALLEY AUTHORITY, Aubrey J. Wagner as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the TVA, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Alabama


Charles A. Graddick, Atty. Gen., Edward E. Carnes, Asst. Atty. Gen., Montgomery, Ala., for plaintiff.

Herbert S. Sanger, Jr., Gen. Counsel, Charles A. Wagner, III, Assoc. Gen. Counsel, Justin M. Schwamm, Assoc. Gen. Counsel, Michael R. McElroy, TVA, Knoxville, Tenn., for defendants.


McFADDEN, Chief Judge.

The State of Alabama, on the relation of its Attorney General, in this action against the Tennessee Valley Authority, and its board of directors (TVA), seeks a declaration that Section 8(a) of the Tennessee Valley Authority Act, 16 U.S.C. § 831g(a), requires TVA to locate its administrative and executive offices at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and an injunction restraining TVA from maintaining such offices at a place other than Muscle Shoals. Jurisdiction exists under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

Pending before the court are cross-motions for summary judgment. The issues raised by these motions are whether Alabama has standing to bring this action, whether the suit is barred by the doctrine of res judicata, and finally, whether section 8(a) of the Act requires TVA to locate its main offices at Muscle Shoals, Alabama.


Alabama alleges that it has standing to bring this action in both its proprietary capacity, and in its representative capacity as parens patriae for its citizens.

A. The State as Parens Patriae.

TVA first contends that Massachusetts v. Mellon, 262 U.S. 447, 43 S.Ct. 597, 67 L.Ed. 1078 (1923), denies Alabama standing, in its parens patriae capacity, to sue a federal agency:

While the state, under some circumstances, may sue for the protection of its citizens, . . . it is no part of its duty or power to enforce their rights in respect of their relations with the Federal Government. In that field it is the United States, and not the State, which represents them as parens patriae.

Id. at 485-86, 43 S.Ct. at 600. Accord South Carolina v. Katzenbach, 383 U.S. 301, 324, 86 S.Ct. 803, 15 L.Ed.2d 769 (1966); Com. of Pa. by Shapp v. Kleppe, 174 U.S. App.D.C. 441, 533 F.2d 668 (1976), cert. denied 429 U.S. 977, 97 S.Ct. 485, 50 L.Ed.2d 584 (1976).

In both Mellon and Katzenbach, the plaintiff states challenged the constitutionality of federal statutes. Standing in those circumstances would be "clearly and obviously a fundamental threat to the federal sovereign power." Com. of Pa. by Shapp v. Kleppe, supra, 174 U.S.App.D.C. at 455, 533 F.2d at 682 (Lumbard, J., dissenting). Alabama, however, "seeks only to vindicate the will of the people as it has been expressed by their duly elected representatives in the national legislature." Id. Therefore, the federalism considerations present in those actions are absent here. Compare Georgia v. Pennsylvania R.R., 324 U.S. 439, 445, 65 S.Ct. 716, 89 L.Ed. 1051 (1945).

In Washington Utilities & Transp. Com'r. v. F. C. C., 513 F.2d 1142 (9th Cir. 1975), cert. denied 423 U.S. 836, 96 S.Ct. 62, 46 L.Ed.2d 54 (1975), the court found this distinction to be dispositive and held that a state, through one of its agencies, had parens patriae standing to challenge federal agency action:

WUTC does not attack the constitutionality of the Communications Act on any ground; rather, it relies upon the federal statute and seeks to vindicate the congressional will by presenting what it asserts to be a violation of that statute by the administrative agency charged with its enforcement.

Id. at 1153.

Other cases support parens patriae standing in this case. In State of Florida v. Weinberger, 492 F.2d 488 (5th Cir. 1974), the court held that Florida, on behalf of its citizens, had standing to challenge the Secretary of HEW's power to enact certain regulations under the Medicaid Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1396a. In State of New York v. United States, 65 F.Supp. 856 (S.D.N.Y. 1946) (three-judge court), affirmed 331 U.S. 284, 67 S.Ct. 1207, 91 L.Ed. 1492 (1947), the court found that the state had standing as parens patriae to challenge an alleged misapplication of a federal statute by the Interstate Commerce Commission.

In the court's view the rationale of Massachusetts v. Mellon, supra, is not applicable to the facts in the present case and there is no constitutional barrier to Alabama acting as parens patriae for its citizens.

There is, however, an inherent limitation on the legitimacy of any action brought by a state as parens patriae. In Pennsylvania v. New Jersey, 426 U.S. 660, 96 S.Ct. 2333, 49 L.Ed.2d 124 (1976), the court noted that:

It has, however, become settled doctrine that a State has standing to sue as parens patriae only when its sovereign or quasi-sovereign interests are implicated and it is not merely litigating as a volunteer the personal claims of its citizens.

Id. at 665, 96 S.Ct. at 2336.

Quasi-sovereign interests are implicated where the injury for which redress is sought affects the general welfare of the state, or its citizens at large. Kansas v. Colorado, 206 U.S. 46, 99, 27 S.Ct. 655, 51 L.Ed. 956 (1907); Louisiana v. Texas, 176 U.S. 1, 19, 20 S.Ct. 251, 44 L.Ed. 347 (1900).

Alabama alleges that the location of TVA at Muscle Shoals would benefit the general welfare of its citizens and promote the economic well-being of the state by the creation of thousands of jobs in the Muscle Shoals area, and the injection of millions of dollars into the state economy. The court is of the opinion that these allegations are sufficient to support a finding of injury to the quasi-sovereign interests of Alabama.

B. The Proprietary Interests of the State.

Alabama's proprietary interests are alleged to have been harmed by the loss of tax revenues, the denial of a statutory right conferred by section 8(a), and the loss of honor and prestige resulting from the failure of TVA to locate its headquarters at Muscle Shoals.

A state has at least the same right of access to the court as any other institution to seek redress for injuries sustained in its proprietary capacity. Com. of Pa., by Shapp v. Kleppe, supra. See also Hawaii v. Standard Oil Company of California, 405 U.S. 251, 92 S.Ct. 885, 31 L.Ed.2d 84 (1972).

The court agrees with the statement in Com. of Pa., by Shapp v. Kleppe, supra, 174 U.S.App.D.C. at 445, 533 F.2d at 672, that an "allegation that tax revenues were reduced embodies a comprehensible harm to the economic interests of the state government," and therefore is of the opinion that Alabama, in its proprietary capacity, has alleged a judicially cognizable claim for relief. Compare, Massachusetts v. Mellon, supra, at 485. Since only injunctive and declaratory relief is sought, the court need not decide whether the alleged denial of a statutory right or loss of honor and prestige are redressable injuries.

C. Constitutional and Prudential Limitations on Standing.

Having determined that the identity of the parties is no bar to the adjudication of the claims set forth in the complaint, consideration must now be given to those standing questions applicable to any suit brought in a federal court.

Under article III of the Constitution of the United States, the federal judicial power extends only to "cases" or "controversies". Muskrat v. United States, 219 U.S. 346, 356, 31 S.Ct. 250, 55 L.Ed. 246 (1911).

In terms of Article III limitations on federal court jurisdiction, the question of standing is related only to whether the dispute sought to be adjudicated will be presented in an adversary context and in a form historically viewed as capable of judicial resolution.

Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 101, 88 S.Ct. 1942, 1953, 20 L.Ed.2d 947 (1968).

A recent exposition of the Supreme Court concerning the Article III requisites of standing is found in Duke Power Co. v. Carolina Environmental Study Group, Inc., 438 U.S. 59, 98 S.Ct. 2620, 57 L.Ed.2d 595 (1978):

The essence of the standing inquiry is whether the parties seeking to invoke the court's jurisdiction have "alleged such a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy as to assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of issues upon which the court so largely depends for illumination of difficult constitutional questions." Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 204, 82 S.Ct. 691, 703, 7 L.Ed.2d 663 (1962). As refined by subsequent reformulation, this requirement of a "personal stake" has come to be understood to require not only a "distinct and palpable injury," to the plaintiff, Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 501, 95 S.Ct. 2197, 45 L.Ed.2d 343, but also a "fairly traceable" causal connection between the claimed injury and the challenged conduct. Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Corp., 429 U.S. 252, 261, 97 S.Ct. 555, 50 L.Ed.2d 450 (1977). See also Simon v. Eastern Ky. Welfare Rights Org., 426 U.S. 26, 41-42, 96 S.Ct. 1917, 48 L.Ed.2d 450 (1976); Linda R. S. v. Richard D., 410 U.S. 614, 617, 93 S.Ct. 1146, 35 L.Ed.2d 536 (1973).

Id. at 2630.

Prior to the submission of the pending motions, the court granted TVA's request for a protective order against answering interrogatories seeking to discover the number of persons employed by TVA and the dollar amount of the payroll allocable to them. TVA, however, has not disputed the factual allegations of the complaint, and properly recognizes that it is the nature of the claimed injury, and not the amount thereof which is relevant to the standing inquiry. United States v. SCRAP, 412 U.S. 669, 689, n. 14, 93 S.Ct. 2405, 37 L.Ed.2d 254 (1973).

It is common knowledge that the presence of the headquarters of an organization the size of TVA would generate tax revenues directly and indirectly to the state and have a significant economic impact on the state. Clearly, the...

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