WASHINGTON Feb 22 The U.S. Supreme Court
ruled on Wednesday for a unit of PPL Corp and overturned
a decision that granted Montana ownership of riverbeds
underlying company-owned hydroelectric dams in a case with an
estimated $50 million at stake.
The high court's ruling was a setback for the state in the
dispute involving PPL Montana and ownership of the riverbeds
beneath 10 dams on three Montana rivers. The state has said the
company owed it some $50 million in back rent and interest.
The justices unanimously overturned a decision by the
Montana Supreme Court that PPL Montana must pay back rent,
interest and an undetermined amount of rent in the future for
use of the state's riverbeds beneath its plants.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the opinion that the state
court ruling was based on an incorrect legal understanding of
the U.S. Supreme Court's rules on navigability and ownership.
The company had argued the contested stretches of water were
not navigable when Montana became a state in 1889 and therefore
the title to the submerged lands under the dams should not go to
The Obama administration supported PPL Montana in the
dispute while 26 other states supported Montana.
The Supreme Court case is PPL Montana v. Montana, No.