U.S. Supreme Court to hear PPL Montana riverbed rent case

The U.S. Supreme Court announced it will hear PPL Montana’s appeal of a Montana Supreme Court decision that granted the state ownership of riverbeds underlying certain PPL Montana-owned dams, retroactively going back to statehood.

“We welcome the Supreme Court’s decision to take up this case because of the broad implications it has for water users throughout the West,” said Robert J. Grey, senior vice president, general counsel and secretary of PPL Corporation.

The case involves PPL Montana’s appeal of a state court decision that the company must pay accrued rent and interest, and an undetermined amount of rent going forward, to Montana for the use of riverbeds beneath its dams and hydroelectric plants, some of which have been generating electricity for more than a century. 

PPL Montana has recorded a charge of $56 million that includes the original judgment of the Montana courts plus the company’s estimate of interest and rent that has accrued since the state court’s ruling.

Grey said the case raises federal issues that affect the rights of streambed users, including hydroelectric plant operators, ranchers, irrigators, cities, dock owners, recreationalists and federal landholding agencies.

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