The United States Supreme Court announced Monday (6/20) that 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 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.
“The diverse support PPL Montana received to get this case on the high court’s docket shows the importance and potential consequences of this issue to many parties across the West,” Grey said. “Many water users, water use associations and industry organizations — including the Montana Farm Bureau Federation, the Montana Water Resources Association, the Edison Electric Institute, the National Hydropower Association and others — have supported this appeal.”
PPL Montana provides safe, reliable energy from coal-fired power plants at Colstrip and Billings, as well as 11 hydroelectric plants along West Rosebud Creek and the Missouri, Madison, Clark Fork and Flathead rivers. It has a combined generating capacity of more than 1,200 megawatts and has offices in Great Falls, Billings, Butte and Helena. PPL Montana and its 500 employees are dedicated to Montana and its communities, supporting educational, environmental and economic development programs across the state. PPL EnergyPlus® operates a trading floor in Butte that markets and sells power for PPL Montana in wholesale and retail energy markets throughout the western United States. PPL Montana and PPL EnergyPlus are subsidiaries of PPL Corporation.