[NEWS] Trial Begins for Wood Supplier’s Lawsuit Against Gainesville Biomass
– by Ethan Magoc, May 2, 2016, WUFT
Is Wood Resource Recovery a “mom and pop” tree clearing business victimized by Gainesville’s biomass plant operator?
Or did the Gainesville company simply bite off more than it could chew when it signed a 2010 contract with Gainesville Renewable Energy Center (GREC)?
Judge Monica J. Brasington on Monday heard opening arguments and testimony in a trial that will determine the $17.4 million answer to those conflicting questions. Brasington will decide in the non-jury trial whether or not Wood Resource Recovery is entitled to that amount in damages.
For background: Gainesville Regional Utilities in 2009 signed a 30-year power purchase agreement with American Renewables, a company that then built a $500 million plant that converts biomass to electricity for the public utility. To produce that electricity, GREC annually requires hundreds of thousands of tons of wood chopped into small pieces. Wood Resource Recovery gathered and supplied that processed wood for GREC in 2013 and 2014 as the plant began operating.
What occurred between that time and this week was the subject of an hour of opening statements on Monday morning.
Patrice Boyes, attorney for the wood supplier, said its 2010 contract with GREC represented a “sea change” in the scale of the company’s operations. Its main allegation is that GREC concealed information about the type of wood the plant could accept from suppliers and changed its standards for the biomass material in the middle of the contract. This, Boyes said, eventually cost Wood Resource Recovery millions of dollars in lost business as GREC stopped accepting its deliveries.
Attorney Mike Piscitelli, speaking for GREC, said the wood supplier was putting forward excuses to disguise its lack of production capacity compared with what the plant requires (more than 700,000 tons in 2014).
“You’re going to find that this dispute is not about plastic. It’s not about yard waste. It’s not about screening. It’s not about agriculture. It’s certainly not about financing. And it’s not about wait times,” he said.
“To put it in perspective, WRR entered into an agreement that was just too big for them. They were not able to manage the project in such a way as to be as profitable as they wanted.”