Lawsuit Claims PacifiCorp Stole Concept, Design for Utah Power

Lawsuit Claims PacifiCorp Stole Concept, Design for Utah Power

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- After PacifiCorp studied the bids for another power plant in Utah, it announced the best company to do construction was -- PacifiCorp.

Now a Texas company that was one of the bidders is suing PacifiCorp, claiming it poached its concept and design for a natural gas-fired plant with a unique design that started operating in June.

The Portland, Ore.-based PacifiCorp, the parent company of Utah Power, denies the allegations.

Spring Canyon Energy LLC filed the lawsuit Friday in 3rd District Court seeking $250 million for theft of trade secrets and breach of contract from PacifiCorp, a utility that also operates in northern California, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.

Spring Canyon Energy, a subsidiary of Dallas-based USA Power Partners Ltd., also is suing lawyers at Holme Roberts & Owen, a Denver-based firm with Salt Lake offices. It represented Spring Canyon Energy but switched sides to represent PacifiCorp after the utility decided to build the Currant Creek plant itself about 65 miles south of Salt Lake City.

PacifiCorp stands to earn millions of dollars as owner of a plant that copied designs from Spring Canyon Energy's proposal, said Peggy Tomsic, Spring Canyon's attorney.

"We believe the claims are baseless and look forward to answering the claims in court," Utah Power spokesman Dave Eskelsen said Monday.

The natural gas-fired plant has a unique design that captures energy two ways. It generates 200 megawatts of power from a jet engine-like combustion turbine that turns a generator. PacifiCorp says it will boost output to 525 megawatts next year by making use of the hot gases from the combustion turbine to produce steam and turn another generator.

"These machines are very efficient and environmentally very clean, because natural gas is a clean fuel," Eskelsen said. "It's also very flexible, which is what we need. Our peak demand for energy is growing faster than base demand."

Spring Canyon isn't claiming it has a patent on the design. Instead, it contends PacifiCorp. copied its entire proposal, from engineering designs to the site, fuel source and transmission path, making a trade secret case under Utah law.

Spring Canyon says PacifiCorp grabbed water rights for a plant that sits a mile from where Spring Canyon obtained land and water rights.

The Utah Public Service Commission authorized Spring Canyon in April to negotiate with PacifiCorp to build a smaller gas-fired plant at Mona, but as part of those negotiations Tomsic said PacifiCorp asked Spring Canyon to give up any legal claims over the construction of the first plant.

Spring Canyon refused to surrender its claims, broke off negotiations and filed the lawsuit, Tomsic said.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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