Utica Facing 12 Million Dollar Lawsuit

Forty-five gas station owners assail the company for Unfair Sales Act violation.

Ethanol Producer Utica Energy LLC and its associated retailer, Renew E-85 are being sued by 42 Green Bay-area gas stations for $12 million over alleged violations of the state’s Unfair Sales Act, according to the Gannett Wisconsin Newspapers.

Judge Barbara Key has been presiding over the case, which could have implications for the rest of Wisconsin’s ethanol producers, convenience store operators and consumers, Utica and Renew attorney Bruce Bauer told the newspaper.

“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,” Bauer said. “I think a great many consumers in this state would be astonished to know there is such a law on the books.”

According to court records, the gas station owners claim a Renew’s station sold fuel below the minimum price allowed under the state’s Unfair Sales Act from Aug. 12, 2006 to Jan. 1, 2007. Based on unspecified injuries, each station owner asked the court to order Utica Energy and Renew to pay each station a total of $2,000-per-day per-violation, or $286,000. The station operators are also seeking a permanent injunction to keep Renew from selling vehicle fuel, according to the newspaper.

Bauer has argued the station owners’ claims, stating that the case is without merit based on the due process clause in the 14th Amendment that prohibits excessive penalties. He’s gone on record saying that the station owners’ claims are derived more from the threat ethanol producers pose to “big oil” than anything else, saying the stations “ganged up” on Renew and Utica.

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