Gypsum biomass trial concludes; jury expected to hand down verdict Monday
What’s being debated?
• Wellons, an Oregon company, built a biomass plant in Gypsum that started generating electricity in December 2013.
• Wellons says it’s owed $17.5 million by Eagle Valley Clean Energy, the plant’s owner-operator, for construction work on the plant.
• Wellons also asserts that instead of using some of the $18.5 million in federal funding Eagle Valley Clean Energy received from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Service to pay that balance, Eagle Valley Clean Energy and others allegedly conspired to commit “fraudulent transfers” and “civil conspiracy” and divvied up the money amongst themselves.
• Wellons says Eagle Valley Clean Energy also prohibited Wellons from completing the items on its final punch list.
• Eagle Valley Clean Energy, a Provo, Utah-based consortium, claims it is owed $19.6 million by Wellons because of alleged construction defects in the plant.
• Eagle Valley Clean Energy says some of Wellons’ construction defects caused a conveyor-belt fire on Dec. 13, 2014, which led to the plant sitting idle for a year.
• GCube, the insurance company that covers the biomass plant, says Wellons owes it $3.5 million for the December 2014 conveyor belt fire.
• Wellons countered that the fire started because Eagle Valley Clean Energy didn’t clean the conveyor.
DENVER — After pushing and prodding from a federal court judge, attorneys in the Gypsum biomass trial sent the case to the jury Friday, the afternoon of the ninth day in the nine-day civil trial.
Federal District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson, citing the seven jurors’ well-being, ordered attorneys to slash the number of witnesses they planned to call, as he attempted to wrap up the trial by Friday, its scheduled final day.
At stake are tens of millions of dollars in claims and counter claims between Eagle Valley Clean Energy, the Utah-based company that owns and operates the biomass plant in Gypsum, and Oregon-based Wellons, which built the plant.
Jurors slogged through a parade of witnesses who testified that the biomass plant bought substandard wood chips for fuel, or not; that the construction workmanship was excellent, or not; that the plant’s business practices were managed so poorly that it was insolvent, or not; that the conveyor where a fire started should have had a fire suppression sprinkler system, or not.
After hours of deliberation Friday afternoon, the jury is expected to hand down its verdict Monday.
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Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.