DOJ: News Release

Bullock Calls Supreme Court’s PPL Decision “A Victory for Generations of Montanans”

HELENA – The Montana Supreme Court handed down a decision Tuesday holding that PPL Montana, LLC must pay the State of Montana nearly $41 million for past use of the riverbeds of the Clark Fork, Missouri and Madison Rivers to generate hydroelectric power. The Court also confirmed the State’s authority to rent these lands in the future.

The State argued that PPL should have to pay full market value for the use of over 5,000 acres of state trust lands, just like every other farmer, rancher, timber or mining company that uses these lands to raise crops, graze cattle, log or mine.

Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock, whose office argued the case in front of the Supreme Court last September, issued the following statement:

“Today’s decision is a victory for generations of Montanans and confirms what we’ve known all along – our rivers belong to the people of Montana, not out-of-state corporations.

The Supreme Court has guaranteed that Montana will be compensated for past use of the riverbeds by the dams. And in the future, power companies that want to use our streambeds to make hundreds millions of dollars will have to pay full market value in the future.”

The Court made clear that farmers and ranchers who use riverbeds for irrigation are not under the same rental obligations as the power companies.

PPL generates electricity in Montana, but they do not sell to individual homeowners and businesses. Because of that, they are not a regulated utility, meaning that the corporation, not Montana ratepayers, will pay the damages ordered by the Court.

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