Wood Resource Recovery machinery grinds wood for delivery to Gainesville's biomass plant. Those deliveries ceased in 2015 when the company terminated its contract with GREC. (Courtesy: Wood Resource Recovery)
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Judge Awards $4.4 Million To Gainesville Company Over Disputed Biomass Supply Contract

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In a victory for local company Wood Resource Recovery, Circuit Judge Monica Brasington ordered on Thursday that Gainesville’s biomass plant owes $4,465,885.82 in damages for defaulting on the companies’ contract.

Wood Resource Recovery filed a lawsuit against Gainesville Renewable Energy Center (GREC) on April 1, 2015, seeking as much as $17.4 million in damages. The lawsuit required an 8-day trial last month at the Alachua County Family/Civil Justice Center. Much of the $17.4 million claim stemmed from equipment the wood supplier purchased to provide millions of tons of biomass to GREC. Judge Brasington opted against that part of WRR’s claim because the company is still using the equipment even though it’s no longer doing business with GREC.

Still, the company celebrated the decision Thursday night.

“I think the case demonstrates,” WRR attorney Patrice Boyes said, “that you as a big corporation cannot come to town and use somebody for your own purposes — in this case to get a half-billion dollar bank loan — and then toss them to the curb when the contract becomes inconvenient.”

Judge Brasington, in finding for WRR, appeared to agree with that sentiment.

“Due to the combination of actions and breaches by GREC,” she wrote in a final judgment Thursday, “along with WRR’s willingness and ability to perform the minimum contract volumes under the Agreement, the Court finds that WRR was justified in terminating the contract…”

WRR was indeed the one to terminate, but only after it claimed that GREC had put insurmountable hurdles in place (such as changing how much plastic was allowed in the biomass deliveries) that prevented it from carrying out the contract. The companies’ contract, signed in 2010, was to run through 2020. It called for WRR to deliver millions of tons of shredded yard waste and other burnable material to Gainesville’s biomass plant, located off highway 441 about 10 miles north of the city.

The plant is currently not running due to an ongoing dispute with the city of Gainesville. The city, through its Gainesville Regional Utilities, signed in 2009 a 30-year agreement with GREC that could earn the Boston-based plant owners as much as $3 billion.

But at the moment the city is able to save money by keeping the plant shut down purchasing power elsewhere.

Judge Brasington also threw out GREC’s counterclaim against WRR. The counterclaim alleged that WRR’s biomass had damaged the plant’s boiler because of too much ash.

“Regardless of any contractual ash limits,” she wrote, “the evidence at trial did not show that WRR’s biomass caused the boiler’s ash problem.”

GREC’s chief executive Al Morales could not be reached for comment Thursday night. The company could take its case to the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee.

About Ethan Magoc

Ethan is a journalist at WUFT News. He's a Pennsylvania native who found a home reporting Florida's stories. Reach him by emailing emagoc@wuft.org or calling 352-294-1525.

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