Winnebago County Circuit Court Judge Barbara Key has dismissed Utica Energy LLC from a lawsuit filed by 42 Green Bay-area convenience store operators that have accused the company and Renew E-85 LLC ethanol stations of unfair gas pricing, according to the Oshkosh Northwestern.
Though the case against Renew E-85 continues, Key determined there was “no disputed fact” that would require the Utica to remain a part of the lawsuit which seeks a total of $12 million in penalties for violations of the state’s Unfair Sales Act, also referred to as the minimum markup law, at Renew E-85s Lineville Road fuel station in Green Bay, Wis.
The storeowners were attempting to prove Utica Energy “operated and managed Renew E85 LLC as its ‘alter ego,’ controlled pricing at its fuel stations and that Renew had no identity separate and apart from Utica,” however, Key ruled against the plaintiffs. In state incorporation documents, the companies list the same business address and the same agent for both businesses.
Gov. Jim Doyle has previously directed state agencies not to seek penalties against ethanol producers for violations to the Unfair Sales Act, which states that fuel stations are required to mark up the price of fuel sold to consumers to keep competition fair. In the civil suit, the storeowners argued their profits and operations were harmed by Renew’s decision to sell 10%, 20% and 85% ethanol fuel at their costs regardless of whether it is above or below posted fuel prices at Green Bay and Milwaukee motor vehicle fuel distribution centers.
“We’re pleased about that first step and we will have to see where it goes,” said Renew’s Phil Younger. He added that this decision is positive, but will not resolve the overall lawsuit.