Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Utica Energy

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Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Utica Energy

OSHKOSH, Wis. -- A Winnebago County Circuit Court judge recently dismissed ethanol producer Utica Energy LLC from a lawsuit filed by 42 Green Bay area c-store operators. They claimed the company and a Renew E-85 ethanol station were involved in unfair gas pricing and violating the state's minimum markup law, The Northwestern reported.

After a hearing last week, the judge found there was "no disputed fact" that requires Utica Energy to be involved with the lawsuit, which seeks a total of $12 million in penalties for violations of the state's Unfair Sales Act, the report stated.

The suit will continue for Renew, according to the newspaper.

In late August, CSNews Online reported the suit could have implications for the rest of the state's ethanol producers, convenience store operators and consumers.

"This represents an effort by at least some gasoline retailers to take aggressive action against at least one ethanol seller utilizing a state minimum mark-up law," attorney for the defendant, Bruce Bauer, said at the time. "I think a great many consumers in this state would be astonished to know there is such a law on the books."

The convenience stores involved in the suit alleged Utica Energy "operated and managed Renew E85 LLC as its "alter ego," controlled pricing at its fuel stations and Renew had no identity separate and apart from Utica." While the judge dismissed the suit, the companies have the same business address and cite Paul Olsen as the agent for both businesses, the report stated, citing state incorporation documents.

The c-store operators also argued their profits and operations were harmed by Renew's sale of 10-, 20- and 85-percent ethanol fuel. CSNews Online previously reported the fuel that was being sold under the minimum markup gave Utica Energy a competitive advantage, and forced other vendors to lower their prices, resulting in revenue loss and attempts to persuade the operators to buy ethanol directly from Utica Energy.