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PPL examines options on court order on rent for dams, riverbed use

PPL Montana is evaluating its options for dealing with a Montana Supreme Court order that the utility pay the state for the use of the riverbeds where PPL dams sit.

PPL Montana was ordered by the Montana Supreme Court to pay the state $40 million in current and past rent for the use of riverbeds where the utility's hydroelectric projects are located. The court found that the land under the dams is like any other public land that is rented out for purposes such as grazing cattle or drilling for oil, wire reports indicate.

A PPL spokesman said the utility's options could include an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, wire services reported.

PPL Montana, a unit of PPL Corp., said the decision could impact other river users, but the high court ruled that farmers and ranchers who use riverbeds for irrigation are not under the same rental obligations as power companies, according to wire reports.

A state law says court-ordered judgments accrue interest at a rate of 10 percent a year from the original decision. The rent has been accruing since a district court order dating back to 2008, reports indicate.

The Montana Supreme Court ruling said the company would also owe for future rent, which will be determined by the state Land Board. The company has 90 days from that point to respond, according to wire reports.

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