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PPL’s former Corette coal-fired power plant in Billings is seen. The power plant has been torn down.

Former Colstrip power plant co-owner and operator PPL is suing Talen Energy over claims that PPL was derelict in funding environmental cleanup and pension costs at the facility.

In a Delaware District Court, PPL asserted that any shortage in cash for environmental cleanup or employee benefits was because of the mismanagement by Talen.

In October, Talen sued its predecessor, claiming PPL took $733 million from its Montana holdings that should have stayed with the Colstrip operation to cover worker benefits and environmental cleanup commitments.

Talen said Friday it would press forward with its lawsuit against PPL.

"We have not yet seen the complaint, but I can say that we intend to push forward with our Montana lawsuits and that Talen will vigorously defend itself against PPL’s allegations," said Taryne Williams, Talen spokeswoman. 

In its lawsuit, PPL said Talen was spun off with $4 billion equity value, enough to cover costs related to PPL's operation of the power plant. If Talen doesn't have the money now, it's because the company shuffled its Colstrip revenue upstream to shareholders, PPL alleged.

“Our complaint demonstrates what we have said from the beginning, which is that Talen’s claims against PPL are entirely without merit,” said Joanne H. Raphael, PPL senior vice president, in a press release. “As set forth in our complaint, these allegations are instead an attempt to blame PPL for the consequences of Riverstone's calculated, self-serving business decisions.” Riverstone Holdings is Talen's parent company.

PPL said its spinoff to Talen went according to plan and that Talen's October lawsuit violates the terms of that 2015 separation agreement. Both companies originated in Pennsylvania. 

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No longer a player in Montana's energy market, PPL was once the state's largest energy producer, generating power for roughly half of Montana's retail energy consumers, plus electricity for the state's oil refineries and large industries. The company owned a substantial share in Colstrip, plus 11 Montana  hydroelectric dams.

The company cut ties with the Montana market in 2015 when it spun off its Colstrip holdings to Talen. PPL sold its dams to NorthWestern Energy for $769 million in 2014.

In suing PPL, Talen accused the company of pocketing profits from its dam sales instead of building a nest egg for its Colstrip obligations.

PPL said Friday in its lawsuit that proceeds from its dam sale were never on the table for Colstrip, which is something Talen agreed to.

PPL accused Talen of paying a $500 million special cash dividend to Riverstone Holdings in late 2017. PPL is asking the court to declare its 2015 separation agreement valid and shield it from Talen's Colstrip demands.

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Agriculture and Politics Reporter

Politics and agriculture reporter for The Billings Gazette.