The statute, against whose enforcement the suit is directed, contains several restrictive provisions more or less directly connected with the purpose suggested by its title, but we are concerned with only the one before set forth, because the Court of Appeals of the State has pronounced
Coming to the provision in question, it is necessary to inquire what construction has been put upon it by the highest court of the State, for that construction must be accepted by the courts of the United States and be regarded by them as a part of the provision when they are called upon to determine whether it violates any right secured by the Federal Constitution. Weightman v. Clark, 103 U.S. 256, 260; Morley v. Lake Shore Railway Co., 146 U.S. 162, 166; Olsen v. Smith, 195 U.S. 333, 342. The Court of Appeals of the State had the statute before it in Hathorn v. Natural Carbonic Gas Co., 194 N.Y. 326, and again in People v. New York Carbonic Acid Gas Co., 196 N.Y. 421, and the elaborate opinions then rendered disclose that the court, having regard to the title of the act and to the doctrine of correlative rights in percolating waters which prevails in that State, as recognized in Forbell v. City of New York, 164 N.Y. 522, construed this provision, not as prohibiting the specified acts absolutely or unqualifiedly, but only when the mineral waters are drawn from a source of supply not confined to the lands of the actor but extending into or through the lands of others, and then only when the draft made upon that source of supply is unreasonable or wasteful, considering that there is a coequal right in all the surface owners to draw upon it. In other words, the court, by processes of interpretation having its approval, read into the provision an exception or qualification making it inapplicable where the waters are not drawn from a common source of supply, and also where, if they be drawn from such a source, no injury is done thereby to others having a like right to resort to it.
As so interpreted, the statute presupposes (1) the existence, in porous rock beneath the lands of several proprietors,
"They [meaning the surface owners] could not be absolutely deprived of this right which belongs to them without a taking of private property. But there is a coequal right in them all to take from a common source of supply the two substances which, in the nature of things, are united, though separate. It follows, from the essence of their right and from the situation of the things as to which it can be exerted, that the use by one of his power to seek to convert a part of the common fund to actual possession may result in an undue proportion being attributed to one of the possessors of the right, to the detriment of the others, or by waste by one or more, to the annihilation of the rights of the remainder. Hence it is that the legislative power, from the peculiar nature of the right and the objects upon which it is to be exerted, can be manifested for the purpose of protecting all the collective owners by securing a just distribution to arise from the enjoyment by them of their privilege to reduce to possession and to reach the like end by preventing waste. . . . Viewed, then, as a statute to protect or to prevent the waste of the common property of the surface owners, the law . . . which is here attacked because it is asserted that it devested private property without due compensation, in substance, is a statute protecting private property and preventing it from being taken by one of the common owners without regard to the enjoyment of the others."
And, taking up subordinate contentions advanced in support of the principal one, the court also said:
"First. It is argued that as the gas, before being allowed
If the statute there assailed did not work a deprivation of property without due process of law, it is difficult to perceive that there is any such deprivation in the present case. The mineral waters and carbonic acid gas exist in a commingled state in the underlying rock, and neither can be drawn out without the other. They are of value in their commingled form and also when separated, but the greater demand is for the gas alone. Influenced by this demand, some surface owners, having wells bored or drilled into the rock, engage in extensive pumping operations for the purpose of collecting the gas and vending it as a separate commodity. Usually where this is done an undue proportion of the commingled waters and gas is taken from the common supply and a large, if not the larger, portion of the waters from which the gas is collected
We do not overlook the statement in appellant's brief that the mineral waters reached by the gas company's wells do not exist in any underground reservoir and do not come from any common source, but we cannot give it any effect. It is contrary to what the courts of the State apparently regard as the real situation at Saratoga Springs, and is without support in the present record. While the bill alleges that the waters are percolating waters, not naturally flowing to or upon the surface, that description of them is not inconsistent with their existence in a natural reservoir of porous rock underlying the lands of several owners. Besides, if we accepted it as true that they do not constitute a common source of supply, that is, one to which other surface owners have an equal right to resort, it then would have to be held that the gas company's acts are not within the prohibition of the statute, as construed by the Court of Appeals of the State, and therefore that the appellant, as owner and holder of capital stock and bonds of the company, is not harmed by the statute and is not entitled to draw in question or test its validity.
Neither do we overlook the allegation in the bill that the gas company's pumps do not exert any force 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;" but we regard it as of little importance, because if the wells reach a common source of supply excessive or wasteful pumping from them may affect injuriously the rights of other surface owners, although the force exerted by the pumps does not reach their lands.
Because the statute is directed against pumping from wells bored or drilled into the rock, but not against pumping from wells not penetrating the rock, and because it is directed against pumping for the purpose of collecting the gas and vending it apart from the waters, but not against pumping for other purposes, the contention is made that it is arbitrary in its classification, and consequently denies the equal protection of the laws to those whom it affects.
The rules by which this contention must be tested, as is shown by repeated decisions of this court, are these: 1. The equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment does not take from the State the power to classify in the adoption of police laws, but admits of the exercise of a wide scope of discretion in that regard, and avoids what is done only when it is without any reasonable basis and therefore is purely arbitrary. 2. A classification having some reasonable basis does not offend against that clause merely because it is not made with mathematical nicety or because in practice it results in some inequality. 3. When the classification in such a law is called in question, if any state of facts reasonably can be conceived that would sustain it, the existence of that state of facts at the time the law was enacted must be assumed. 4. One
Unfortunately the allegations of the bill shed but little light upon the classification in question. They do not indicate that pumping from wells not penetrating the rock appreciably affects the common supply therein, or is calculated to result in injury to the rights of others, and neither do they indicate that such pumping as is done for purposes other than collecting and vending the gas apart from the waters is excessive or wasteful, or otherwise operates to impair the rights of others. In other words, for aught that appears in the bill, the classification may rest upon some substantial difference between pumping from wells penetrating the rock and pumping from those not penetrating it, and between pumping for the purpose of collecting and vending the gas apart from the waters and pumping for other purposes, and this difference may afford a reasonable basis for the classification.
In thus criticising the bill, we do not mean that its allegations are alone to be considered, for due regard also must be had for what is within the range of common knowledge and what is otherwise plainly subject to judicial notice. Brown v. Piper, 91 U.S. 37, 43; Brown v. Spilman, 155 U.S. 665, 670; McLean v. Denver & Rio Grande R.R. Co., 203 U.S. 38, 51; McNichols v. Pease, 207 U.S. 100, 111. But we rest our criticism upon the fact that the bill is silent in respect of some matters which, although essential to the success of the present contention, are neither within the range of common knowledge nor otherwise plainly subject to judicial notice. So, applying the rule that one who assails the classification in such a law must carry the
From statements made in the briefs of counsel and in oral argument we infer that wells not penetrating the rock reach such waters only as escape naturally therefrom through breaks or fissures, and if this be so, it well may be doubted that pumping from such wells has anything like the same effect — if, indeed, it has any — upon the common supply or upon the rights of others, as does pumping from wells which take the waters from within the rock where they exist under great hydrostatic pressure.
As respects the discrimination made between pumping for the purpose of collecting and vending the gas apart from the waters and pumping for other purposes, this is to be said: The greater demand for the gas alone and the value which attaches to it in consequence of this demand furnish a greater incentive for exercising the common right excessively and wastefully when the pumping is for the purpose proscribed than when it is for other purposes; and this suggestion becomes stronger when it is reflected that the proportion of gas in the commingled fluids as they exist in the rock is so small that to obtain a given quantity of gas involves the taking of an enormously greater quantity of water and to satisfy appreciably the demand for the gas alone involves a great waste of the water from which it is collected. Thus, it well may be that in actual practice the pumping is not excessive or wasteful save when it is done for the purpose proscribed.
These considerations point with more or less persuasive force to a substantial difference, in point of harmful results, between pumping from wells penetrating the rock and pumping from those not penetrating it, and between pumping for the purpose of collecting and vending the gas apart from the waters and pumping for other purposes.
In conclusion upon this point, it suffices to say that the case as presented, instead of plainly disclosing that the classification is arbitrary, tends to produce the belief that it rests upon a reasonable basis.
Another objection urged against the statute arises out of a ruling of the Court of Appeals of the State, to the effect that in proceedings for the enforcement of the statute one who, for the purpose of collecting and vending the gas as a separate commodity, engages in pumping such waters from wells bored or drilled into the rock, is prima facie within the prohibition of the statute, and must take the burden of showing that he comes within the exception or qualification, before mentioned, whereby the statute is made inapplicable where the waters are not drawn from a common source of supply, and also where, if they be drawn from such a source, no injury is done thereby to others having a right to resort to it. Because of this ruling, which is treated as if read into the statute, it is insisted that the latter impinges upon the guarantees of due process of law and equal protection of the laws. But we think the insistence is untenable, and for these reasons:
Each State possesses the general power to prescribe the evidence which shall be received and the effect which shall be given to it in her own courts, and may exert this power by providing that proof of a particular fact, or of several taken collectively, shall be prima facie evidence of another fact. Many such exertions of this power are
"That a legislative presumption of one fact from evidence of another may not constitute a denial of due process of law or a denial of the equal protection of the law it is only essential that there shall be some rational connection between the fact proved and the ultimate fact presumed, and that the inference of one fact from proof of another shall not be so unreasonable as to be a purely arbitrary mandate. So, also, it must not, under guise of regulating the presentation of evidence, operate to preclude the party from the right to present his defense to the main fact thus presumed. If a legislative provision, not unreasonable in itself, prescribing a rule of evidence, in either criminal or civil cases, does not shut out from the party affected a reasonable opportunity to submit to the jury in his defense all of the facts bearing upon the issue, there is no ground for holding that due process of law has been denied him."
The statute now before us, as affected by the ruling mentioned, makes proof of certain designated facts prima facie, but not conclusive, evidence of the common source of the waters and of the injurious effect of the pumping, that is to say, it establishes a rebuttable presumption, but neither prevents the presentation of other evidence to overcome it nor cuts off the right to make a full defense. As respects the source of the waters, the presumption appropriately may be regarded as prompted by the
For these reasons none of the objections urged against the statute can be sustained, and so the decree dismissing the bill is