NORTH FORK — A lawsuit was filed late last week against North Fork Community Power and the two private companies planning to build a new 2-MW biomass plant in North Fork.
The suit, filed July 9 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, alleges that the private equity partners in the North Fork Community Power project — Phoenix Energy and EQTEC PLC — infringed on advanced “gasification” patent technology owned by Aries Clean Energy.
North Fork Community Power was established by the North Fork Community Development Council (CDC) to operate the biomass power plant once construction is completed.
Franklin, Tennessee-based Aries’ complaint is specific to the North Fork project and does not extend to any of EQTEC’s or Phoenix Energy’s other projects.
Aries CEO Gregory Bafalis has yet to respond to requests from SNO to comment on the lawsuit.
According to its website, Aries Clean Energy started in 2010 as PHG Energy and was initially funded by the owners of a multi-state Caterpillar dealership. Today, the company has tens of millions in investor financing and is involved in a number of biomass projects around the U.S., including its Lost Hills’ bioenergy facility in Kern County.
EQTEC, based in Ireland, has a 20 percent equity stake in the biomass plant project. EQTEC joined the North Fork project in late 2019 and issued a statement Monday saying the company “refutes any allegation [its] technology infringes any valid U.S. patent” and that EQTEC will “vigorously” defend against the lawsuit.
“It is the strongly held belief of the Board that the Aries claim as filed is without merit,” said a statement issued Monday from EQTEC. “The Board further believes it is due to the nature of EQTEC’s technological pre-eminence in the gasification of waste into energy market that the Group could be the subject of spurious and unfounded potential claims in relation to patent protection from time to time. The Board considers the filing of this claim to be opportunistic.”
Phoenix Energy, based in the Bay Area, has been the driving force behind the plan to finance and build North Fork’s biomass plant. Phoenix CEO Greg Stangl was unavailable Tuesday to comment on the latest developments surrounding the project.