MR. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the Court.
Almost nine years have passed since this Court's decision in Phillips Petroleum Co. v. Wisconsin, 347 U.S. 672, holding that the Federal Power Commission has jurisdiction over the rates charged by an independent producer of natural gas. The present case, involving
Following the remand in the Phillips case, the Commission, proceeding under § 5 (a) of the Natural Gas Act,
Hearings in these consolidated proceedings did not begin until June 1956 and extended over a period of almost 18 months. All parties proceeded on the assumption that the lawfulness of Phillips' rates was to be determined on the basis of its jurisdictional cost of service for the test year 1954,
Over one year later, in September 1960, the Commission issued the opinion that is the subject of the present litigation. 24 F. P. C. 537. Its basic conclusion was that the individual company cost-of-service method, based on theories of original cost and prudent investment, was not
The Commission, in its opinion here, gave several reasons for rejecting as unsuitable the individual company cost-of-service method. 24 F. P. C., at 542-548. In particular it emphasized that, unlike the business of a typical public utility, the business of producing natural gas involved no fixed, determinable relationship between investment and service to the public. A huge investment might yield only a trickle of gas, while a small investment might lead to a bonanza. Thus the concept of an individual company's "prudent investment," as a basis for calculating
Returning to the proceedings before it, the Commission decided that, despite its disapproval of the cost-of-service method, the whole case having been tried on that basis, a final administrative determination of cost of service for the test year should be made. It then proceeded to resolve a number of difficult questions, including those relating to allocation of production and exploration costs, allocation of costs between natural gas and extracted liquids, and rate of return, and arrived at a system-wide jurisdictional cost of service for the test year of $55,548,054—a figure which substantially exceeded jurisdictional revenues ($45,568,291) for that year.
With this determination in hand, the Commission turned to the consolidated § 4 (e) proceedings, involving specific rate increases filed through May 1956, and found that those increases had produced increased revenues of only about $5,250,000 annually, or considerably less than the total deficit for the test year. It also stated that there was nothing in the record to show that any of the increased rates were "unduly discriminatory or preferential." It then concluded that since it could not order refunds of any portion of these increases, in view of the continuing
The two exceptions concerned rate increases under "spiral escalation" clauses in Phillips' contracts,
The Commission recognized that there remained almost 100 other § 4 (e) proceedings, involving increases filed by Phillips, that had not been consolidated in this case. It said that since the present record indicated that Phillips' costs exceeded revenues at least through 1958 it was inviting Phillips to file motions to terminate all § 4 (e) proceedings relating to increases filed prior to 1959, thus limiting future consideration of Phillips' rates to 1959 and after. Whether this invitation has been accepted by Phillips is not disclosed, but in any event none of these other § 4 (e) proceedings is before us now.
Turning to the § 5 (a) investigation of the lawfulness of Phillips' existing rates, the Commission first noted that there was considerable disagreement over how these rates should be set—whether they should be approximately uniform throughout the country or should vary from area to area. It then said that it was aware that both costs and prices had greatly increased since 1954
On application for rehearing, the Commission rejected the suggestion that it should reopen the case for submission of 1959 cost data. 24 F. P. C. 1008. It said that the "interest of consumers and the exigencies of regulation will be better served in rate proceedings brought on an area basis rather than on an individual company basis," and that the area method would lead to "more effective and expeditious regulation of the producer sales." 24 F. P. C., at 1009. It also rejected the claim that it had erred in terminating the § 4 (e) proceedings because some of the increased rates were in excess of the average unit cost of service, reiterating that there had been no showing of undue discrimination or preference and that the total revenue resulting from the increases did not make up the deficit shown by the test year determination.
On review, the Court of Appeals, in a thorough and informative opinion, affirmed the decision of the Commission. 112 U. S. App. D. C. 369, 303 F.2d 380. Judge Fahy, dissenting in part, argued that whether or not the area rate method of rate regulation was the ultimate solution, the Commission having gone so far in this proceeding should have finished it by deciding on a cost-of-service basis the justness and reasonableness of Phillips' past increases and of its present rates. To have failed to do so, he believed, was a clear abuse of discretion. We granted certiorari because of the importance of this case
The arguments of the parties, both in their briefs and at the bench, have covered a broad range of subjects, including a number of other administrative actions and proceedings—past, present, and future—that are not before us today. We lay these collateral subjects to one side and focus on the three precise questions that have been brought here for review: whether the Commission erred (1) in refusing to reject certain increased rates because they were based on spiral escalation clauses; (2) in terminating the 10 consolidated § 4 (e) proceedings involving increases now superseded and in leaving two such proceedings open only for a limited purpose; or (3) in discontinuing the § 5 (a) investigation of the lawfulness of Phillips' current rates. Of these three questions, which will be considered in the order stated, the third is the only one vigorously pressed by all petitioners and is clearly the principal issue in the case.
California, alone among the petitioners, challenges the Commission's refusal to declare void ab initio the spiral escalation clauses in Phillips' contracts on which rate increases in three of the 12 § 4 (e) dockets were based.
But we have at least grave doubts that this question may be raised by California at this time. As to two of the three dockets, the claim would appear premature, since the dockets are still pending, and the increases there involved may eventually be disallowed if the pipeline increases on which they depend are themselves disallowed
Further, we see no merit in California's contention. It is true that the Commission has announced prospectively that it would not accept for filing contracts containing such clauses,
The claim that the Commission erred in terminating 10 § 4 (e) dockets, and leaving two others open only for a limited purpose, is pressed primarily by Wisconsin and New York. In considering their contentions, it should
The Commission's termination of these § 4 (e) dockets was a decision on the merits. It was based on the finding that the annual increase in revenue produced by these increased rates was substantially less than the deficit for the test year 1954. Petitioners' principal objection appears to be that Phillips' overall, and unit (per Mcf.), revenues increased so substantially that they may have exceeded costs during the 1955-1959 period for which the increases were allowed. But the fact is that Phillips' average unit revenues during this period never rose significantly above its test year unit revenue requirements as determined by the Commission.
It was urged on rehearing before the Commission, and in the court below, that some of the increased rates were above average cost of service and that at most the Commission should have terminated only those § 4 (e) dockets in which the increased rates did not exceed the average unit cost of service. The Commission rejected this contention, stating that Phillips' rates would normally vary greatly because sales were made at widely separated points and under different conditions, and that there was little or nothing to be gained by entering a protracted investigation of allocation of costs to particular past rates "when it is already known that Phillips was not earning its whole cost of service." 24 F. P. C., at 1009.
We believe this conclusion was justified,
The final question is whether the Commission was justified in terminating the § 5 (a) investigation of the reasonableness of Phillips' current rates. Preliminarily, it is important to observe that the Commission's accomplishments since the original Phillips case, the validity of the Statement of General Policy 61-1, the actions taken pursuant
As the petitioners recognize, the issue is whether the termination constituted an abuse of discretion, a discretion which in general is broad but which the petitioners urge is a good deal narrower in a proceeding that has gone this far than in the case of a decision whether or not to initiate an inquiry. See Minneapolis Gas Co. v. Federal Power Comm'n, 111 U. S. App. D. C. 16, 294 F.2d 212. Underlying petitioners' position are their claims that the result of the termination is little or no effective regulation in the interim period before the development of area rate regulation, that such regulation may take many years to evolve, and that the method may eventually be held invalid.
1. The petitioners are not of one mind as to the feasibility and lawfulness of the area rate method of regulation, although no one questions the Commission's right to undertake the experiment. California appears to come closest to the view that the individual company cost-of-service method is the only lawful basis for rate regulation and that the invalidity of the area approach is therefore predictable. If we believed that such a departure from present concepts had little, if any, chance of being sustained, we would be hard pressed to say that the Commission had not abused its discretion in terminating this § 5 (a) proceeding while undertaking the area experiment. For if area regulation were almost sure to fail, and if the individual company cost-of-service method of determining the reasonableness of rates had been abandoned, then there would be virtually no foreseeable prospect of effective regulation. Difficult as the problems of cost-of-service regulation may be, they would not warrant a breakdown of the administrative process.
More specifically, the Court has never held that the individual company cost-of-service method is a sine qua non of natural gas rate regulation. Indeed the prudent investment, original cost, rate base method which we are now told is lawful, established, and effective is the very one the Court was asked to declare impermissible in the Hope case, less than 20 years ago.
To whatever extent the matter of costs may be a requisite element in rate regulation, we have no indication that the area method will fall short of statutory or constitutional standards. The Commission has stated in its
We recognize the unusual difficulties inherent in regulating the price of a commodity such as natural gas.
Thus the question whether the Commission abused its discretion in terminating the proceeding must be measured against the only alternative: remanding for additional evidence. Such a remand undoubtedly would have consumed considerable time and energy, including that of the Commission and its staff, and would almost certainly have involved another decision by a hearing examiner, another appeal to the Commission, another petition for rehearing and further judicial review of complex and difficult issues. In short, the alternative rejected by the Commission would not have resulted in definitive regulation
3. It is contended that, as a result of the decision to terminate this § 5 (a) proceeding, the public will receive significantly less protection against the charging of excessive prices by Phillips (and others) in the interim period before the area method sees the light of day. Were this the case, it would bear importantly on our review of the Commission's exercise of its discretion. But in this connection several factors should be noted. First, the record before us does not paint a picture of the public interest sacrificed on the altar of private profit. Indications are that at least until 1959 Phillips' jurisdictional revenues did not catch up to its cost of service. Although revenues increased substantially after that time, the Commission observed that costs have also risen dramatically, and we have no basis for assuming that current rates are grossly unreasonable.
Second, most of Phillips' increased rates now in effect are the subject of pending § 4 (e) proceedings and are thus being collected subject to refund. Refund obligations, it is true, do not provide as much protection as the elimination of unreasonable rates, see Federal Power Comm'n v. Tennessee Gas Transmission Co., 371 U.S. 145, 154-155, but they are undoubtedly significant and cannot be ignored, as some of the petitioners would have us do.
Third, it is clear that since the Commission's decision in this proceeding, the upward trend in producer prices has been substantially arrested, and in at least one important area the trend has actually been downward.
Fourth, it must be remembered that the problem of this transitional period would still exist if the present § 5 (a) proceeding were reopened for the taking of new evidence; there is no way of predicting how much time would be required for a final decision to be rendered, but it would inevitably be substantial. It is therefore evident that the choice is not between protection or no protection. There will in either event be some protection, though doubtless with room for improvement, for several years.
Petitioners claim that forcing the Commission to reopen this § 5 (a) investigation will not unduly delay area rate proceedings and will in fact provide useful information for area rate-making purposes. The Commission, with equal vigor, states that it does not have the facilities to reopen this case (and all others that have reached approximately the same stage) and at the same time to proceed expeditiously with its area investigations. It estimates that the Permian Basin area proceedings, a case involving some 35% of Phillips' jurisdictional sales and roughly 10% of sales by all producers, will be completed in about the same time that would be required to complete a remanded § 5 (a) proceeding relating to Phillips alone. It warns that if it is required to reopen this and similar proceedings, the result may be to delay unduly the area investigations, while compelling adherence to a method the Commission deems unworkable, thus providing significantly less protection for the public both in the long and the short run.
The Court cannot resolve this dispute against the Commission and tell it that it has made an error of law— abused its discretion—in deciding how best to allocate its
Finally, the fact that the Commission in this case terminated the § 5 (a) proceedings, rather than merely holding them in abeyance as it did in Hunt Oil Co., 28 F. P. C. 623,
The Sisyphean labors of the Commission continue as it marches up the hill of producer regulation only to tumble down again with little undertaken and less done. After 16 years without regulation under the Act, resulting from the Commission's position that it had no jurisdiction over the production of gas, this Court decided Phillips Petroleum Corp. v. Wisconsin, 347 U.S. 672 (1954).
I cannot let this pass without saying that, as a result of the Court's approval of the Commission's action here, the gas consumers of this country will suffer irretrievable loss amounting to billions of dollars. I shall now offer a few examples in the Commission's rate-base calculation of 1954 that support this conclusion.
I. GROSS ERRORS IN THE COST OF SERVICE
As the Court has pointed out, the Commission terminated not only the § 5 (a) proceeding but also 10 consolidated § 4 (e) proceedings against Phillips, the latter
Aside from its direct expenditure for purchased gas
(a) Exploration and development, depletion allowance, allocation and interest costs.—Exploration and development expense for 1954 on the books of the company was $47,474,039, including undeveloped lease rentals, drilling tools, expired and surrendered leases, dry holes and land
(b) Allocation of cost between oil and gas.—Much of the gas produced for interstate sale is "associated gas," i. e., it is produced along with oil and is known as casing-head gas. Fifty-seven percent of Phillips' gas production is associated gas but it accounted for only 13.42% of its combined revenue. In addition some wells produce condensate liquids and condensate gas which must be separated through gasoline plants. The question is how much of the expense of exploration, operation, etc., of wells should be chargeable to gas. Phillips used a B.t.u. method which allocated 61.88% of the expense to gas. The Commission cut this to 32.742%, equivalent to 4.281¢
(c) Purchased gas.—If allowed increased rates Phillips says its cost of gas will rise automatically under its percentage type purchase contracts. This item of $1,671,733 was disallowed by the Examiner since the suppliers were not shown to have been entitled to any increase. As the Commission points out an increase in rate would not increase the percentage Phillips was obligated to pay. It would require Phillips to pay the pro-rate increase in rates due on percentage gas, but it recoups this plus a profit when that gas is sold. I submit, as the Examiner found, that the allowance of this million and a half in the cost basis is erroneous. Increases through automatic escalator clauses—which effect the same result—are not permitted because not based on any increase in cost of production. In approving this practice in percentage contracts the Commission creates a perfect loophole for these producers and invites more contracts of this nature.
(d) Interest.—Expense for money borrowed for 1954 amounted to $9,892,308. On its tax return Phillips claimed an allowance of only $3,743,077. This variance in cost of money seems to have occurred by reason of an exchange of Phillips' outstanding bonds for common stock. The Commission allowed the larger figure on the basis that it was a "known change" that probably would not occur in other years. It is interesting to note that the "known change" theory was not applied to the "San Juan
It is readily apparent that the Commission's cost-of-service calculations for 1954 are full of holes. In addition, assuming, as I do not, that the 1954 cost is correct the Commission should not be permitted to extend that cost and the 1954 revenue into subsequent years through 1958 and hold that they too are deficit years. This is, on its face, not in keeping with rate-making procedures. Moreover, the record itself shows the error of the Commission's method. The Examiner found that, on Phillips' own presentation of its costs, the over-all deficiency for 1956 "was not significantly higher than that derived in Phillips' 1954 test year cost of service." 24 F. P. C., at 773. Phillips' revenues, however, increased each year subsequent to 1954. In 1957 they were some $8,000,000 above 1954; they increased some $17,000,000 in 1958 and about $28,000,000 in 1959. In 1960 revenue was $90,856,248, which was practically twice that of 1954 ($45.6 million). These facts, all known to the Commission, required a reappraisal of the cost of service for all years subsequent to 1954, rather than the arbitrary use of the 1954 figures. The necessary data could have been quickly obtained from Phillips which, of course, had its total revenues readily available and, I am sure, had its cost basis for each § 4 increase likewise calculated.
II. THE DISMISSALS AND THEIR CONSEQUENCES.
The real problem, however, is not so much in Phillips' 1954 level, for that has long since gone by the board and the consumer may as well forget it. The increased levels that became effective between 1954 and the date of the decision in April 1959 are the main rub. The Examiner understood this when, in his final order, he directed Phillips to file uniform rates which would, when applied to sales made in 1954, bring Phillips its 1954 costs and allowed return. He further directed that the same schedule of rates be applied to all sales made subsequent to 1954 and through the date of his decision and to all sales thereafter. Under this requirement if the subsequent cost of service did increase and was not offset by increased revenues the company could recoup itself with § 4 rate increases. This the Commission refused to do and thereby left Phillips free to collect rates as high as 23.5¢ per Mcf. and subject to no refund. The Commission excused itself on the ground that there would be no reason to fix Phillips' rates on a cost basis since it was going to adopt the area plan. It also found the staleness of the test year prevented its application to subsequent years but obviously this was not the reason. In the first place, it used the "stale" test year of 1954 to justify its finding of deficit through 1958. In addition all parties had agreed upon that year. Investigation covered 1955 and 1956. Hearings began in June 1956 and ran through 1957. Phillips itself presented 1956 data, the latest full year at the time of the closing of the hearings. They were used to show
The dismissal of the § 4 (e) and § 5 (a) cases is the more unfortunate and indicates a disturbing disregard of the consumer interest. On the § 4 (e) cases the Court says "most of Phillips' increased rates now in effect are the subject of pending § 4 (e) proceedings . . . ." At this very moment Phillips is making sales at nonrefundable rates as high as 23.5¢ per Mcf. which produce annual revenues more than $3,000,000 in excess of the Commission's SGP 61-1 price levels.
The dismissal of the § 5 (a) proceeding was likewise unjustified. Continuation of the proceeding would have required a remand but the conclusion of the Court that "several years might have elapsed" before a determination of the issue is a bad guess. It has been two years since this dismissal and there is nothing in sight as yet for a final decision on the Permian Basin area proceeding. The Commission has 22 more areas to go. Meanwhile all areas, including Phillips', have escaped regulation for the years 1954-1963, a total of nine years. If in 1960 the Commission had remanded the § 5 (a) proceeding it could long since have been decided, since the enormous increase in Phillips' revenue for 1960 ($45.6 million in 1954 to $90.8 million in 1960) would have definitely shown an excessive rate. The Examiner had found, contrary to the conclusion of the Court, that the 1956 cost of service was not "significantly higher" than 1954. All that would have been necessary was to project this to the three-year period 1957-1959, inclusive. Phillips, I wager, could have done this almost overnight, if it did not already have the figures available. The Commission in determining the standards to be used had allowed every cost item save the allocation on associated gas which could have been easily corrected
The Court says that a new § 5 (a) proceeding can be filed. This is true, but if it were filed tomorrow, more than nine years will already have been lost to the consumer!
The Commission, in my view, had no valid excuse for dismissing the § 4 (e) and § 5 (a) proceedings. It followed exactly the opposite course in Hunt Oil Co., 28 F. P. C. 623. The Court dismisses this case as inapposite but its technical distinction merits no discussion. As I see it the conclusion in Hunt not to dismiss the pending proceedings is in direct conflict with the action taken here.
I have considered this record page by page—line by line—and have given the Commission's action my most careful attention. There is but one conclusion—namely, that the Commission erred in its determination of the 1954 cost of service and return; and in dismissing the § 4 (e) and § 5 (a) proceedings, rather than concluding the case by determining a just and reasonable rate, it acted in an arbitrary and unreasonable manner entirely outside of the traditional concepts of administrative due process.
III. THE FALLACY OF THE STATEMENT OF GENERAL
As the Court says, the validity of the Statement, SGP 61-1, and the rates accompanying it is not before the Court. But despite this declaration I notice that the Court proceeds to discuss the Statement and strongly implies a view as to its validity. I think it both premature and dangerous to pass any judgment at this stage of the proceedings. There are serious legal questions lurking
It is of course true that the cost-of-service method is not the "sine qua non of natural gas rate regulation." It is not so much that the Commission must follow a single method but rather that, in abandoning a historic, presently used and undoubtedly legal one in the summary manner done here, it left the production of gas without the required regulation which the Congress has directed. It can hardly be denied that the Commission's action will leave producers for a number of years—estimated by the Court of Appeals at up to 14—without effective regulation and will result in irreparable injury to the consumer of gas. The only brakes on spiraling producer prices are the "guide prices" which the Commission attached to its SGP 61-1. These, rather than being legally established rates, are nonreviewable guides reflecting the highest certificated rate or weighted price. They have no binding effect. Indeed, they may well establish a floor rather than a ceiling.
In addition, area pricing must run the hurdle of legal attack and, to be constitutionally sound, must include a showing that the individual producer at the area rate fixed will recover his costs; otherwise it would be confiscatory and illegal. I cannot share the Court's optimistic view that the Commission's area rate, tested by "the `reasonable financial requirements of the industry' in each production area," is likely to do this. The facts of gas industry life make it crystal clear that one producer's costs vary
Typical of this simple fact of gas industry life is the announcement last November 15 that the Commission
That the Commission's problems are difficult goes without saying. But as complicated as they appear to be it seems entirely feasible for it to solve them. Other agencies have been faced with like congestion problems. Indeed both the National Labor Relations Board and the Wage and Hour Administration found that they could not process all situations confronting them. They adopted procedures that exempted the inconsequential ones. See 23 N. L. R. B. Ann. Rep. 7-8 (1958). The suggestion that the Commission do likewise has much merit. It appears that in 1953, the year before Phillips, of all the producers then selling in interstate commerce, each of 4,191 producers sold less than 2,000,000,000 cubic feet of gas annually, the total of their sales being only 9.26% of the gas then sold in interstate commerce. See Landis, Report on Regulatory Agencies to the President-Elect
IV. INCONSEQUENTIAL MATTERS.
There are two inconsequential matters that the Court discusses. The first is the escalation clause in several of Phillips' contracts. The Commission has promulgated a series of rule-making orders condemning spiral escalation clauses as being against the public interest. By Orders
The other miniscule point when compared to the basic questions in the case is whether Phillips' widely varying rates were "on their face unduly discriminatory and preferential," as contended by petitioners in No. 72. The Court refrains from passing on this issue, regarding it as not raised in the court below or on rehearing before the Commission. Section 19 (b) of the Act precludes a court on review from considering an objection not raised in the petition for rehearing before the Commission, but it appears that petitioner Wisconsin adequately raised the issue of discrimination in its rehearing petition,
As I reminded in the beginning, the Congress directed that gas moving in interstate commerce be sold at just and reasonable rates. The basis of such a determination must have some reference to the costs of the service. The Commission has, however, failed to require this. Instead it has declared the 1954 test year, which it thoroughly investigated, to be "stale" but nevertheless used its findings for that year to release Phillips from regulation not only for 1954 but also for the four succeeding years. Pursuant thereto it dismissed the § 4 (e) proceedings and a § 5 (a) proceeding covering those periods. In addition the Commission has abandoned its cost-of-service program of rate fixing and has embarked on an area basis regulation which is highly questionable. It has also promulgated, without any hearing, rates as guidelines that have no support in evidence as to their justness and reasonableness. Through this course of conduct the Commission's program of producer regulation—of which Phillips is the keystone—has permitted the continued collection of untested, unreasonable, unjust, discriminatory and preferential rates. This situation under the present timetable will continue for years. For these reasons I believe that the public interest requires that this case be reversed and remanded to the Commission with directions to fix the just and reasonable rates of Phillips involved herein. I therefore dissent.
"Whenever the Commission, after a hearing had upon its own motion or upon complaint of any State, municipality, State commission, or gas distributing company, shall find that any rate, charge, or classification demanded, observed, charged, or collected by any natural-gas company in connection with any transportation or sale of natural gas, subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission, or that any rule, regulation, practice, or contract affecting such rate, charge, or classification is unjust, unreasonable, unduly discriminatory, or preferential, the Commission shall determine the just and reasonable rate, charge, classification, rule, regulation, practice, or contract to be thereafter observed and in force, and shall fix the same by order: Provided, however, That the Commission shall have no power to order any increase in any rate contained in the currently effective schedule of such natural gas company on file with the Commission, unless such increase is in accordance with a new schedule filed by such natural gas company; but the Commission may order a decrease where existing rates are unjust, unduly discriminatory, preferential, otherwise unlawful, or are not the lowest reasonable rates."
"Whenever any such new schedule is filed the Commission shall have authority . . . to enter upon a hearing concerning the lawfulness of such rate, charge, classification, or service; and, pending such hearing and the decision thereon, the Commission, upon filing with such schedules and delivering to the natural-gas company affected thereby a statement in writing of its reasons for such suspension, may suspend the operation of such schedule and defer the use of such rate, charge, classification, or service, but not for a longer period than five months beyond the time when it would otherwise go into effect; and after full hearings, either completed before or after the rate, charge, classification, or service goes into effect, the Commission may make such orders with reference thereto as would be proper in a proceeding initiated after it had become effective. If the proceeding has not been concluded and an order made at the expiration of the suspension period, on motion of the natural-gas company making the filing, the proposed change of rate, charge, classification, or service shall go into effect. Where increased rates or charges are thus made effective, the Commission may, by order, require the natural-gas company to furnish a bond, to be approved by the Commission, to refund any amounts ordered by the Commission, to keep accurate accounts in detail of all amounts received by reason of such increase, specifying by whom and in whose behalf such amounts were paid, and, upon completion of the hearing and decision, to order such natural-gas company to refund, with interest, the portion of such increased rates or charges by its decision found not justified. At any hearing involving a rate or charge sought to be increased, the burden of proof to show that the increased rate or charge is just and reasonable shall be upon the natural-gas company, and the Commission shall give to the hearing and decision of such questions preference over other questions pending before it and decide the same as speedily as possible."
"Our examination of the record in this case convinces us that increased rates for specific sales cannot always be found to be just and reasonable solely on the basis of a comparison of individual company wide costs with that company's revenues in a test year." 28 F. P. C., at 626.
The record in the Hunt case is not before us, but it is evident from the Commission's opinion that, unlike the present case, certain increased rates there involved were not "locked in" and were higher than the currently prevailing rates in the production area. Thus the factors that may have merited limited supplementation of the record in that case with respect to the § 4 (e) proceedings were not present here. It should also be noted that in Hunt, as here, the Commission decided not to pursue the broad § 5 (a) inquiry into the lawfulness of all of the producer's present rates. See p. 314, infra.