The Texas Company v. Siefried

Decision Date11 April 1944
Docket Number2276
Citation147 P.2d 837,60 Wyo. 142
PartiesTHE TEXAS COMPANY, a Corporation, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. C. F. SIEFRIED, as State Highway Superintendent, and LOUIS J. O'MARR, as State Attorney General, Defendants and Appellants, and W. A. NORRIS, INC., a Corporation; PETER KIEWIT SONS COMPANY, a Corporation; JAMES CRICK; JIM McKNIGHT; GLEN JONES; TAGGART CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, INC., a Corporation; GUY H. JAMES; NORTHWESTERN ENGINEERING COMPANY, a Corporation; ZIMMIE H. LOWDERMILK; HOYLE A. LOWDERMILK, and W. ELBERT LOWDERMILK, Defendants and Respondents
CourtWyoming Supreme Court

Rehearing Denied 60 Wyo. 142 at 174.

APPEAL from District Court, Laramie County; SAM M. THOMPSON, Judge.

Action by the Texas Company against C. F. Siefried, as State Highway Superintendent, and Louis J. O'Marr, as State Attorney General, and others, to restrain the State Highway Department and the Attorney General from enforcing collection of a tax on gasoline sold to defendant contractors engaged in constructing highways in Yellowstone National Park. From a judgment for plaintiff, defendants named appeal.

Reversed with directions to dismiss.


Louis J. O'Marr, Atty. Gen., John J. McIntyre, Dep-Atty. Gen and Arthur Kline, Asst. Atty. Gen., for defendants and appellants.


The transactions in question are subject to taxation under the Wyoming Gasoline Tax Law irrespective of the Hayden-Cartwright Act for the reason that the events upon which a tax is levied all took place wholly within that portion of Wyoming lying outside of Yellowstone National Park. Sections 1 and 2, Chapter 72, Session Laws of 1935; Section 115-1111, W. R. S. 1931.

The Wyoming Gasoline Tax is a license tax levied upon the producer or refiner and is measured by the amount of gasoline which the producer or refiner sells or distributes; that the tax becomes due when the gasoline is so sold or distributed and the only exemption is that set forth in Section 115-1111, supra.

The Court will look into the Legislative history of a law in order to determine the intention of the Legislature. City of Cheyenne v. Burnham, 30 Wyo. 458, 222 P. 1; Manning & Martin, Inc. v. State Board of Equalization, 58 Wyo. 425, 133 P. 2d 373.

The construction placed upon a law by the department charged with its enforcement is of weight. Equitable Life Assurance Society v. Thulemeyer, 49 Wyo. 63, 52 P. 2d 1223; Lamont v. Intermountain Realty Co., 48 Wyo. 56, 41 P. 2d 497. There is evidence to show the construction placed upon Section 2 of Chapter 72, Session Laws of 1935, by the Wyoming Highway Department, the department charged with its enforcement.

It is a well-known rule of statutory construction that words or phrases should be given their natural, ordinary and everyday meaning. Morrison-Knudsen, Inc. et al. v. State Board of Equalization, 58 Wyo. 500 at 512; 135 P. 2d 927; Ward v. Board of Commissioners, 36 Wyo. 460, 256 P. 1039; State ex rel. Murane v. Jack, 52 Wyo. 173 at 183, 70 P. 2d 888; Board of Commissioners v. Blakely, 20 Wyo. 259, 123 P. 72; 59 C. J. 975. This rule has been enacted into law in this State. Section 112-101, W. R. S. 1931. The average person considers that Yellowstone Park is "within this state" and that the phrase "within this state" includes Yellowstone Park.

The gasoline in question was "used within this State" within the meaning of the word "used" as it appears in the gasoline tax law. Edelman, State Treasurer, et al v. Boeing Air Transport, Inc. 289 U.S. 249, 77 L.Ed. 1155; Central Vermont Railroad Company v. Campbell, 192 A. 197, 111 A. L. R. 175.

Section 115-1111, supra, is clearly an exemption statute. It is a general rule that statutes granting exemptions from taxation are strictly construed. State ex rel. Goshen Irrigation District v. Hunt, 49 Wyo. 497, 57 P. 2d 793.

Y. A. Land, of Denver, Colo., and Albert D. Walton, of Cheyenne, for plaintiff and respondent.


Yellowstone National Park is not within the State of Wyoming within the meaning of Section 115-1102 W. R. S. 1931 as amended in 1935. Standard Oil Co. v. State, 291 U.S. 242, 54 S.Ct. 381, 78 L.Ed. 775; People v. Standard Oil Co. of California, 22 P. 2d 2; The State of Wyoming v. Yellowstone Park Company, 57 Wyo. 502, 121 P. 2d 170.

The gasoline was sold in the Park and not outside of it. Section 98-703, W. R. S. 1931.

The gasoline was distributed for sale or use in the Park and not for sale or use outside of it.

"There is no language in the statute warranting a construction which writes into the statute a provision for collection of a tax from the distributor upon each gallon of gasoline withdrawn by such distributor from that distributor's storage tanks."

"The members of the legislature have access to the authorities, and are presumed to know the meaning of the words they write into their enactments."

Words and phrases shall be taken in their plain and usual sense. Section 112-101, W. R. S. 1931. State v. Texas Co. (La.) 174 S. 359.

If the gasoline was "used" or "distributed for use" in Wyoming within the meaning of Section 115-1102, W. R. S. 1931, as amended, it was nevertheless "exported" or sold for "export" within the meaning of Section 115-1111 of said Statutes and therefore was exempt from the tax.

Yellowstone National Park is a foreign state or nation so far as the taxing laws of Wyoming are concerned. Yellowstone Park Transp. Co. v. Gallatin County, 31 F.2d 644; City of Alexandria v. McClary (Va.) 188 S.E. 158; Talbott v. Silver Bow County Commissioners, 11 S.Ct. 594, 597; 139 U.S. 438; 35 L.Ed. 210; Terry v. Olcott, 4 Conn. 442, 445.

Transactions here involved are not taxable under the Hayden-Cartwright Act for the reason that the gasoline sales were not made by or through an agency of the kind designated in said Act, but in the event it should be held that the gasoline sales here involved were made by or through an agency of the kind designated in the Hayden-Cartwright Act, the transactions nevertheless are not taxable under said Act for the reason that such agency was not located in Yellowstone National Park.

The language of the Hayden-Cartwright Act and of the Wyoming gasoline tax law being plain and unambiguous there is no occasion for, and the Court is not warranted in, searching elsewhere to ascertain the intention of Congress and of the Legislature.

The rule is well settled that a court cannot construe statutory language so plain as to need no construction, or refer to legislative committee reports, etc. , where there can be no doubt of the meaning of the words used. Helvering v. City Bank Farmers Trust Co., 56 S.Ct. 70, 296 U.S. 85, 80 L.Ed. 62; Hamilton v. Rathone, 175 U.S. 414, 419; 20 S.Ct. 155; 44 L.Ed. 219; Thompson v. U. S. 246 U.S. 547, 551; 38 S.Ct. 349; 62 L.Ed. 876; Wilber v. U. S. 284 U.S. 231, 237; 52 S.Ct. 113; 76 L.Ed. 261; In re Metcalf's Estate, 282 P. 27, 41 Wyo. 36; Brennan v. Midwest Ref. Co. 210 P. 939, 29 Wyo. 116, 120; Gale v. School Dist. No. 4, 54 P. 2d 811, 49 Wyo. 384.

Ray E. Lee, of Cheyenne, for defendants and respondents.


The gasoline sold to the Defendants and Respondents was used by them in the construction of roads in the Yellowstone National Park under contracts with the United States. The gasoline used for the purpose of constructing roads in the Yellowstone National Park was purchased from The Texas Company by Plaintiffs and Respondents, and it was brought into the Park by a consignee of The Texas Company and then sold and delivered to Defendants. None of the gasoline was sold or delivered to any of the Defendants outside of the Yellowstone National Park. They did not purchase any given quantity of gasoline or any particular tank. When they were ready to receive gasoline the vendor brought the gasoline into the Park and delivered it to the particular purchasers.

"Where there is a contract to sell unascertained goods no property in the goods is transferred to the buyer unless and until the goods are ascertained, but property in an undivided share of ascertained goods may be transferred as provided in Sec. 98-302." Section 98-701, W. R. S. 1931.

Under the Act of Admission of the State of Wyoming, the United States reserved its control over the Yellowstone National Park in the following language: "* * * exclusive legislation, in all cases whatsoever, shall be exercised by the United States, which shall have exclusive control and jurisdiction over the same." Until the enactment of the Hayden-Cartwright Act in its original form, the State had no jurisdiction whatever to tax sales of gasoline in the Yellowstone National Park.

This gasoline was sold within the Yellowstone National Park and is not taxable. State v. Yellowstone Park Co., 57 Wyo. 502; Standard Oil Co. of California v. California, 291 U.S. 242, 78 L. ed. 775.

RINER, Justice. KIMBALL, C. J., and BLUME, J., concur.


RINER, Justice.

This is a proceeding by direct appeal to review a judgment of the district court of Laramie County. The action in that court was commenced by The Texas Company, a Corporation, as plaintiff, against Frank Kelso, as State Highway Superintendent, and Ewing T. Kerr, as State Attorney General as defendants. Other persons and corporations were also named as defendants but so far as this proceeding is concerned, and the questions at present involved, they may be regarded as aligned with The Texas Company hereinafter usually designated as the "plaintiff". Due to changes in officials during the pendency of this litigation C. F. Siefried and Louis J. O'Marr were substituted as defendants, the former as State Highway Superintendent, and the latter as State Attorney...

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