The US Federal Government has been asked to look into a legal case involving the payment of rent for the use of riverbeds, in a move which could have implications for the rights of streambed users in the US including hydroelectric plant operators, ranchers, irrigators, cities, dock owners and recreationalists.

The US Supreme Court has asked the US Office of the Solicitor General to provide further analysis of a petition by PPL Montana for a review of the decision earlier this year by the Montana Supreme Court, which said the state owns the riverbeds where PPL has hydroelectric dams and therefore can charge rent for the use of the riverbed.

“We’re pleased by this development in the streambed use case,” said Robert J. Grey, senior vice president, general counsel and secretary of PPL Corporation. “The Solicitor General’s office will review the case over the next several months and then present its views to the US Supreme Court.

“We had broad support of our petition to the Supreme Court, which shows the importance and potential consequences of this issue in Montana and other states,” Grey said.

“The ‘friend of the court’ briefs from the Montana Farm Bureau Federation, the Montana Water Resources Association, the Edison Electric Institute, the national-hydropower-association, the Cato Institute and history professors specializing in the development of the American West reinforced the importance of this decision to a wide range of interests,” he said.

If the Montana Supreme Court’s decision is upheld, PPL could be liable to pay millions in back rent. Prior to the Montana ruling, the riverbeds were assumed to be owned by private companies or the federal government,