CARMAN, Chief Judge:
Petitioner, J. Andrew Lange, Inc. (Lange), petitions for review of a final decision of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pursuant to 49 U.S.C. § 46110(a). Petitioner filed a complaint alleging that the City of Syracuse (City) violated its federal obligations regarding exclusive rights as set forth in 49 U.S.C. § 40103(e), 49 U.S.C. § 47152, and its Airport Grant agreements. The complaint also claimed that Lange was entitled to an evidentiary hearing. The FAA rejected Lange's claims. We affirm.
Petitioner, a former tenant who leased space at Syracuse Hancock International Airport, filed a formal complaint with the FAA alleging that the City (the owner of the airport) violated its federal obligations under the Federal Aviation Act (the Act). Specifically, Lange alleged that the City violated provisions of the Act and applicable grant agreements by granting an exclusive right to other tenants by negotiating with and granting them lease agreements and refusing to negotiate in good faith with Lange.
A. Standard of Review
This Court evaluates a decision by the FAA under the standard of review provided under the Federal Aviation Act, 49 U.S.C. § 46110(c), and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. § 706. Under the Federal Aviation Act, this Court reviews the FAA's findings of fact to determine whether they are "supported by substantial evidence." 49 U.S.C. § 46110(c). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Universal Camera Corp. v. NLRB, 340 U.S. 474, 477, 71 S.Ct. 456, 95 L.Ed. 456 (1951) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Under the APA, this Court reviews errors of law de novo. See 5 U.S.C. § 706 ("[T]he reviewing court shall decide all relevant questions of law."). Regarding other agency findings, conclusions, and actions, the reviewing court shall hold them unlawful and set them aside if they are "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law." Id. § 706(2)(A). The task of the reviewing court under this standard is to determine whether the agency has considered the pertinent evidence, examined the relevant factors, and articulated a satisfactory explanation for its action including whether there is a "rational connection between the facts found and the choice made." Burlington Truck Lines, Inc. v. United States, 371 U.S. 156, 168, 83 S.Ct. 239, 9 L.Ed.2d 207 (1962).
B. Evidentiary Hearing
Petitioner argues on appeal it was entitled to an evidentiary hearing pursuant to 49 U.S.C. § 46101(a), FAA regulations, and the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment.
1. Statutory Claim
The FAA "shall investigate [a] complaint if a reasonable ground appears." 49 U.S.C. § 46101(a)(1). The agency "may dismiss a complaint without a hearing when . . . the complaint does not state facts that warrant an investigation or action." Id. § 46101(a)(3). Thus, the FAA has discretion to dismiss a complaint without a hearing. See Flight Engineers' Intern. Ass'n v. Civil Aeronautics Board, 332 F.2d 312, 314 (D.C.Cir.1964); see also Transamerica Airlines, Inc. v. CAB, 661 F.2d 244, 250-51 (D.C.Cir.1981). On the other hand, where "the [agency] finds in an investigation under this subsection that a person is violating this [Act]," then "[a]fter notice and an opportunity for a hearing ..., the [agency] shall issue an order to compel compliance." 49 U.S.C. § 46101(a)(4). We read section 46101(a)(3), in context, as permitting the agency to dismiss the complaint without a hearing where the complaint on its face fails to state facts that warrant any investigation or when, after an investigation, no action is warranted. Other circuits have similarly so held. See Penobscot Air Servs., Ltd. v. FAA, 164 F.3d 713, 720-21 (1st Cir.1999); see generally Flight Engineers, 332 F.2d at 314.
Any ambiguity in section 46101 is resolved by the FAA regulations which apply the procedural structure of this section to complaints filed with the agency alleging violations of the Act by airports. The FAA regulations provide for a hearing if, after investigation, the administrator determines allegations set forth in the complaint are substantiated, a proposed order of compliance is issued, and the airport requests a hearing. See 14 C.F.R. §§ 13.5(j), 13.20(c) (1995). This is consistent
Petitioner contends that the FAA is obligated to hold a formal hearing by virtue of 49 U.S.C. § 46101(a) and the agency's regulations where the complaint states a prima facie case. Without regard to whether a prima facie case has been established here, the Court finds Lange does not offer persuasive support for its interpretation of the statute
2. Due Process Claim
As a former tenant at the Syracuse Hancock International Airport, and thus an alleged beneficiary of the restrictive covenant in the airport's deed prohibiting grants of exclusive rights, Lange claims a due process right to an evidentiary hearing. Under the due process clause, the FAA cannot deprive a party of constitutionally protected property without appropriate procedural safeguards. See Cleveland Bd. of Educ. v. Loudermill, 470 U.S. 532, 541-42, 105 S.Ct. 1487, 84 L.Ed.2d 494 (1985).
Without deciding whether Lange's property interest is sufficient to trigger the due process clause, this Court holds the due process clause would not, in any event, obligate the agency to hold a hearing on Lange's complaint. The due process clause is "`flexible and calls for such procedural protections as the particular situation demands.'" Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 334, 96 S.Ct. 893, 47 L.Ed.2d 18 (1976) (quoting Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471, 481, 92 S.Ct. 2593, 33 L.Ed.2d 484 (1972)).
C. FAA's Dismissal of Petitioner's Complaint
The petitioner claims the FAA erred when it found that the City did not violate the Act by granting "exclusive rights" to other tenants. The "exclusive right" provision of the Act provides that "[a] person does not have an exclusive right to use an air navigation facility on which Government money has been expended." 49 U.S.C. § 40103(e). Because the City has received federal funds for its airport through various federal programs, it is subject to the federal prohibition against the grant of an exclusive right.
The term "exclusive right" was "intended to describe a power, privilege, or other right excluding or debarring another or others from enjoying or exercising a like power, privilege, or right." City of Pompano Beach v. FAA 774 F.2d 1529, 1541 (11th Cir.1985) (quoting 40 Op. Att'y Gen. 71, 72 (1941)). "The type of exclusive right prohibited by [this provision of the Act] has been described as one of the sort noxious to the anti-trust laws." Id. at 1542 (internal quotation marks omitted).
The only issue petitioner raises on appeal concerning the agency's "exclusive right" determination is that the FAA's conclusion that the "failure of the city to grant Lange a lease was not based upon an award of an exclusive right to other tenants, but on the failure of the city and Lange to agree on terms and conditions acceptable to both" is not based on substantial evidence. Specifically, Lange alleges that to support the FAA's decision, the FAA must have found the City entered "good faith negotiations with the Petitioner subsequent to [the City's] `offer' to negotiate" a lease agreement with petitioner on December 13, 1995.
There is nothing in the FAA's decision which suggests its conclusion that the parties could not agree on the terms and conditions of the lease was limited to activities "subsequent to [the City's] `offer' to negotiate" on December 13, 1995. Rather, it appears the FAA's conclusion was based on evidence before and after the expiration of petitioner's lease. Specifically, evidence
Moreover, the Court finds the FAA's determination that the City did not violate its federal obligations was based on broad principles regarding the nature of the "exclusive right" prohibition. In the analysis and discussion section of its decision, the FAA discusses the following: (1) Lange's complaint was based on the erroneous supposition that because the City entered into leases with other tenants but not with petitioner, the City per se violated the "exclusive rights" provision; (2) Lange did not allege the leases given to others differed materially from that offered it; and (3) Lange did not allege that the new lease terms would have made it impossible for Lange to operate on the airport. Such factors, in addition to the FAA's finding that the parties could not agree on the terms and conditions of the lease, appear to form the basis of the FAA's decision. These factors constitute a reasonable basis upon which the FAA determined the City did not grant an "exclusive right." Accordingly, this Court finds the FAA's ruling was not arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion and was otherwise in accordance with law.
The judgment of the FAA is affirmed.