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Obama administration looks at PPL riverbed rent case

The U.S. Supreme Court has asked the Obama administration for an opinion on whether the Montana Supreme Court ruled correctly when it determined that PPL Montana must pay rent for the company's use of riverbeds beneath its hydroelectric dams, media outlets reported.

The nation's high court wants acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal, the Obama administration's top attorney before the Supreme Court, to weigh in on the case. The move signals that the high court has taken an interest in the case and may eventually decide to hear it, reports indicate.

PPL Montana wants the Supreme Court to overrule a Montana Supreme Court decision from last March that ordered the company to pay $40 million in current rent, as well as damages for not paying rent for land its dams sit on from 2000 through 2007, plus even more in future rent.

The court decision means the land under the dams is like other public land that is rented out, such as to those who graze cattle or drill for oil.

PPL Montana said the state overstepped its authority and in August asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider in the case. PPL said the Montana Supreme Court was wrong in claiming Montana ownership over 500 miles of riverbeds under multiple hydropower facilities.

Grey said the streambed case raises broad federal issues that go beyond PPL Montana's business interests and has implications for the rights of streambed users including hydroelectric plant operators, ranchers, irrigators, cities, dock owners and recreationalists.

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