97 L. Ed. 770, 73 S. Ct. 543 (1953). Absent such a power, a legislative body could not "wisely or effectively" evaluate those conditions "which the legislation is intended to affect or change." McGrain v. Daugherty, supra, 273 U.S., at 175.
Although the investigatory power is "penetrating and far-reaching" in scope, Barenblatt v. United States, 360 U.S. 109, 111, 3 L. Ed. 2d 1115, 79 S. Ct. 1081 (1959), it is not unlimited. "Its boundaries are defined by its source." Watkins v. United States, 354 U.S. 178, 197, 1 L. Ed. 2d 1273, 77 S. Ct. 1173 (1957); Eastland v. United States Servicemen's Fund, 421 U.S. 491, at 504, n. 15 44 L. Ed. 2d 324, 95 S. Ct. 1813 (1975). Hence, the parameters of the inquiry may be no broader than the "legitimate sphere of legislative activity." See Eastland v. United States Servicemen's Fund, supra, 421 U.S., at 504; Kilbourn v. Thompson, 103 U.S. 168, 189, 26 L. Ed. 377 (1881); McGrain v. Daugherty, supra, 273 U.S., at 174.
The standard to be applied in determining whether the Congressional investigatory power has been properly asserted in a particular case was articulated by the Supreme Court in Wilkinson v. United States, 365 U.S. 399, 408-09, 5 L. Ed. 2d 633, 81 S. Ct. 567 (1961): (1) the Committee's investigation of the broad subject matter area must be authorized by Congress; (2) the investigation must be pursuant to "a valid legislative purpose";
and (3) the specific inquiries involved must be pertinent to the broad subject matter areas which have been authorized by the Congress.
In evaluating these requirements, the Court must consider the relevant rules of the House, the authorizing resolution, the full committee's resolution by which the Subcommittee was authorized to proceed, and the nature and context of the legislative proceedings. Watkins v. United States, supra, 354 U.S., at 209-15; Barenblatt v. United States, supra, 360 U.S., at 117; see also, United States v. Rumely, supra, 345 U.S., at 41, Sacher v. United States, 356 U.S. 576, 2 L. Ed. 2d 987, 78 S. Ct. 842 (1958). And, in deciding the pertinency, the specific inquiries need only be reasonably related to the major subject matter area under investigation. Sinclair v. United States, 279 U.S. 263, 299, 73 L. Ed. 692, 49 S. Ct. 268 (1923).
Applying the foregoing legal principles to the facts of the present case, we note first, that the broad subject matter areas which the Subcommittee is investigating -- national energy policy, natural gas supply and production, the need for emergency natural gas legislation and the role of federal agencies in national energy affairs -- are areas committed to the Subcommittee's jurisdiction by proper Congressional authorization.
Rule X of the Rules of the House of Representatives (94th Cong.) gives the House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce jurisdiction over, inter alia, "interstate and foreign commerce generally," "interstate oil compacts and petroleum and natural gas except on public lands," and "consumer affairs and consumer protection." House Rule X, § 1(L)(1), (3) and (8). The committee has extensive oversight responsibilities including the duty to review and study on a continuing basis the "application, administration, execution, and effectiveness" of existing legislation and "any conditions or circumstances which may indicate the necessity or desirability of enacting new or additional legislation" within the jurisdiction of the committee. House Rule X, § 2(b); see also 2 U.S.C. § 190d.
Rule X also confers upon each of the standing committees of the House the power to "establish an oversight subcommittee . . . to conduct oversight in the area of their respective jurisdictions, to assist in carrying out its responsibilities. . . ." House Rule X, § 2(b)(1). Rule X of the House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce (94th Cong.) establishes the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, giving it jurisdiction, inter alia, to ". . . coordinate its work with the work of the other standing subcommittees . . ." and to "maintain regular communication with the standing subcommittees in order to obtain advice on subjects for investigation."
A resolution agreed to by the full committee on February 26, 1975, establishes the jurisdiction of the Subcommittee as follows:
Jurisdiction: Responsibility for Oversight of agencies, departments and all programs within the jurisdiction of the full committee and to conduct such investigations within such jurisdiction.
Pursuant to the authority of these Rules and the resolution of February 26, 1975, and in order to carry out its legislative review functions under 2 U.S.C. § 190d,
the Subcommittee on April 17, 1975, approved an extensive study of national energy policy, specifically including the subject of "natural gas supplies" and "curtailments of natural gas." Under the Rules of the House of Representatives and an enabling resolution of the full committee, the Subcommittee has subpoena power to compel attendance of witnesses and production of documents in furtherance of such an investigation.
The subpoena in this case was issued by the Subcommittee to the FTC pursuant to that enabling resolution.
Second, we note that the committee and Subcommittee are clearly engaged in "a valid legislative purpose" with respect to the present study of energy problems, natural gas supply and production, emergency natural gas legislation and the role of the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Power Commission, and other agencies responsible for national energy policy. The broad subject matters under investigation have direct relation to pending legislation,
to the decision whether or not to legislate, to the function of overseeing the administration of laws by federal agencies, and to the function of informing itself generally concerning matters of national importance.
And finally, we find that the Subcommittee's specific inquiries to the FTC in the instant case are pertinent to the broad subject matter areas which the House of Representatives has authorized the committee and Subcommittee to investigate. The supply and production of natural gas on federal lands has a distinct impact on the interstate market and national energy policy. The accuracy of reporting regarding natural gas supplies on federal lands relates to an important question of whether natural gas producers, like Ashland, are properly reporting their reserves.
The specific inquiry directed to the FTC pertains to the need for and content of the proposed Natural Gas Emergency Act of 1975, H.R. 9446, 94th Cong., 1st Sess. (which was reported by the full committee and is currently awaiting action by the full House) and is apposite to an authorized area of investigation regarding the role of the FTC, FPC and other federal agencies with respect to supply and production of natural gas.
Moreover, the legitimacy of the specific inquiry to the FTC here has been ratified by the full House which authorized Chairman Moss to intervene in this action to secure the subpoenaed information "now in the possession of the Federal Trade Commission for the use of the committee and the House" H. Res. No. 899, § 1, 121 Cong. Rec. 12, 918-19 (daily ed. December 18, 1975).
In summary, we find that the particular investigation here in issue is directly related to and in furtherance of "a legitimate task of Congress." Watkins v. United States, supra, 354 U.S., at 187. The Subcommittee, in issuing the subpoena, was acting under the clear mandate of the full committee and the House of Representatives to investigate within the "sphere of legitimate legislative activity" and that grant of authority is itself sufficient to show that the investigation upon which the Subcommittee has embarked "concerned a subject on which 'legislation could be had.'" Eastland v. United States Servicemen's Fund, supra, 421 U.S., at 506; McGrain v. Daugherty, 273 U.S., at 177; see also Communist Party v. Control Board, 367 U.S. 1, 6 L. Ed. 2d 625, 81 S. Ct. 1357 (1961).
IV. PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY AND PERMANENT INJUNCTION
The factors to be considered by a court in its determination of whether to grant injunctive relief were articulated by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, per Burger, J., in Virginia Petroleum Jobbers Association v. Federal Power Commission, 104 U.S. App. D.C. 106, 259 F.2d 921, 925 (1958). The Court stated:
Essentially, four factors influence our decision: (1) Has the petitioner made a strong showing that he is likely to prevail on the merits? . . . (2) Has the petitioner shown that without such relief, it will be irreparably injured? . . . (3) Would the issuance of a stay substantially harm other parties interested in the proceeding? . . . (4) Where lies the public interest?
Since the Court believes the second element of this test to be dispositive of the present action, we focus our attention on the requirement that the plaintiff demonstrate irreparable injury in the absence of an injunction.
Injunctive relief is appropriate only "to prevent existing or presently threatened injuries" and "will not be granted against something merely feared as liable to occur at some indefinite time in the future." Connecticut v. Massachusetts, 282 U.S. 660, 674, 75 L. Ed. 602, 51 S. Ct. 286 (1930). See also, General Fireproofing Company v. Wyman, 444 F.2d 391, 393 (2d Cir. 1971). Injunctions will not be granted where the injuries complained of are prospective and "which may, indeed, never occur." Crimmins v. American Stock Exchange, Inc., 346 F. Supp. 1256, 1262 (S.D.N.Y. 1972). The injury complained of must be of such imminence that there is a "clear and present" need for equitable relief to prevent irreparable harm. Hershey Creamery Co. v. Hershey Chocolate Corp., 269 F. Supp. 45 (S.D.N.Y. 1967); see also Assn. of Professional Engineering Personnel v. Radio Corp. of America, 183 F. Supp. 834 (D.C.N.J. 1960). And the required showing of irreparable injury is not eliminated simply by virtue of a claim alleging violation of statutory or constitutional rights (unless the requirement has been specifically eliminated by statute). Thus, in United Fuel Gas Co. v. Railroad Commission, 278 U.S. 300, 73 L. Ed. 390, 49 S. Ct. 150 (1928), the Supreme Court noted:
Suitors may not resort to a court of equity to restrain a threatened act merely because it is illegal or transcends constitutional powers. They must show that the act complained of will inflict upon them some irreparable injury. 278 U.S., at 310 (Stone, J.)
See also Newtex S.S. Corp. v. United States, 107 F. Supp. 388 (S.D.N.Y. 1952), aff'd, 344 U.S. 901, 97 L. Ed. 696, 73 S. Ct. 285; Ellis Raw Bar v. District of Columbia Redevelopment Land Agency, 139 U.S. App. D.C. 385, 433 F.2d 543 (Cir. 1970).
While Ashland couches its concerns in terms of "public disclosure," any irreparable injury to it would result, more precisely, in disclosure to its competitors. Certainly, such injury might logically result as well from general dissemination. But the transfer of such data from the FTC to the Subcommittee and the Subcommittee's review of that information, does not lead inexorably to either public dissemination or disclosure to Ashland's competitors. Moreover, the courts must presume that the committees of Congress will exercise their powers responsibly and with due regard for the rights of affected parties. See, Ansara v. Eastland, 143 U.S. App. D.C. 29, 442 F.2d 751, 754 (1971); United States v. Tobin, 195 F. Supp. 588, 613 (D.D.C. 1961).
Ashland argues that this presumption is rebutted by "Congressman Moss's own past practices" and the Subcommittee's handling of trade secrets in the past which, according to plaintiff, "has shown either a total incapacity to protect such trade secrets or a callous indifference to the proprietary nature of those secrets."
(Plaintiff's Reply Memorandum, p. 59). In addition, Ashland suggests that the Court take judicial notice of the fact that throughout the pendency of this action, "there has been no promise or commitment that Ashland's trade secret data would be given confidential treatment." Id., at 58. While the Court can appreciate Ashland's concern under these circumstances, it does not appear to the Court that isolated instances of breached confidentiality in the past are sufficient to overcome the continuing presumption of Congressional propriety.
Through its staff counsel, the Subcommittee has indicated that there is "no indication" that the Subcommittee "would release information originating from Ashland." (Affidavit of Michael R. Lemov, Intervenor's Motion to Dismiss). And Chairman Moss, through counsel, has represented:
Of course, the Subcommittee does not seek publication of Ashland's trade secrets; it seeks merely production of documents in compliance with a Congressional subpoena. (Response of Chairman Moss to Ashland's Opposition to Motion to Dismiss, p. 6).
Weighing all of these considerations, it appears to the Court, on balance, that the irreparable injury which Ashland seeks this Court to prevent by the issuance of permanent injunctive relief is neither "presently threatened" nor "imminent." The injuries complained of are, rather, "prospective" in nature and "may, indeed, never occur." See Crimmins v. American Stock Exchange, supra.
If irreparable injury cannot be established, and we hold that it has not been established in this case, injunctive relief is not warranted. It follows that the Court need not consider the other factors outlined in Virginia Petroleum Jobbers Association, supra, nor need we reach the merits of Ashland's complaint, nor dispose of the arguments and counter arguments propounded by the parties in support of their respective positions.
The foregoing constitutes the Court's findings of fact and conclusions of law, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 52(a).
It is, accordingly, by the Court this 2nd day of February, 1976,
ORDERED, That plaintiff's motion for preliminary and permanent injunction should be, and the same is hereby, denied. And it is further
ORDERED, That defendants' motion to dismiss should be, and the same is hereby, granted. And it is further
ORDERED, That the temporary restraining order entered in this action should be, and the same is hereby, dissolved. And it is further
ORDERED, That the effect of this order should be, and the same is hereby, stayed until the expiration of ten (10) days from the entry thereof, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 62(a).
Howard F. Corcoran / Judge