The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday (2/22) unanimously overturned a Montana state Supreme Court decision requiring PPL Montana to pay millions in rent for the use of riverbeds under portions of three rivers in Montana.
"We're pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned the Montana court rulings in this historic case," said Robert J. Grey, senior vice president, general counsel and secretary of PPL Corporation. "We're hopeful that this significant decision will lead to a swift resolution of this prolonged dispute.
"The highest court in the land has affirmed PPL Montana's long-held position that non-navigable stretches of riverbed lands are not owned by the state. Any contrary decision could have serious future implications for other Montana streambed users including ranchers, irrigators, cities, dock owners and recreational users," he said.
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. As of Dec. 31, 2011, PPL Montana's total loss accrual was $89 million and includes the original judgment of the Montana courts plus the company's estimate of interest and rent that would have accrued beginning in 2007 under the state court's ruling.
Grey said PPL Montana appreciates the diverse support it received in its appeal from numerous organizations including the Montana Water Resources Association, Montana Farm Bureau, the Edison Electric Institute and the National Hydropower Association, as well as the U.S. solicitor general.
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 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 (NYSE: PPL).