FERC okays sale of final hydro project by PPL to NorthWestern

After some issues were worked out among the parties, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on July 24 approved the transfer of a hydropower license from PPL Montana LLC to NorthWestern Corp. d/b/a NorthWestern Energy.

By application filed Jan. 10, PPL Montana and NorthWestern sought commission approval to transfer the license for the Kerr Hydroelectric Project, located on the Flathead River and Flathead Creek in Flathead Lake County, Montana.

The Federal Power Commission issued a 50-year license to Rocky Mountain Power (a subsidiary of Montana Power) in 1930. The project was transferred to Montana Power in 1938. The commission issued a 50-year license in 1985 to Montana Power and the Confederate Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation (Tribes). The commission issued a transfer of license in 1999 to PPL Montana and the Tribes.

The Jan. 10 application for transfer of license was actually for four projects:  Kerr, Thompson Falls, Missouri-Madison and Mystic Lake. On March 25, the commission approved the transfer of three of the projects, but deferred action on the Kerr Project.

Under the terms of the 1985 license, Montana Power would hold and operate the project for the first 30-years of the 50-year term, and the Tribes would hold and operate the project for the balance of the term and any annual license thereafter. The Tribes have consistently expressed their intent to acquire the Kerr Project at their earliest opportunity, which is Sept. 5, 2015. The Tribes’ initial protest said the commission should reject the transfer application.

But on June 13, the Tribes filed a notice of withdrawal of protest, stating that the concerns regarding the transfer of the Kerr Project from PPL Montana to NorthWestern are being addressed and support the commission’s expeditious approval of the transfer of the Kerr license.

NorthWestern has agreed to accept all of the terms and conditions of the license, including conveyance of the license to the Tribes, and to be bound by the license as if it were the original licensee.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.