One of the first legal marijuana producers in Lincoln County has filed a lawsuit against the region’s electricity provider alleging the breach of an agreement to power up an expansion of their operation south of Ford.
Buddy Boy Farms alleges that Avista Utilities Corp. provided inadequate equipment to handle the load of nine additional greenhouses the farm constructed in the middle of 2016. Originally agreeing to 1,200 amps of power, according to the lawsuit filed Nov. 2 in Spokane County Superior Court, the utility instead only provided equipment that could handle a third of that load, resulting in an explosion that stymied Buddy Boy’s planned expansion for several months in the winter of that year. No one was injured in the explosion.
It was properly planned out, said Jed Morris, the Spokane attorney with the firm Lukins & Annis representing Buddy Boy Farms in the lawsuit, but “for no apparent reason, they just installed equipment that was inadequate.”
David Vowels, a communication manager at Avista, said the company could not comment on pending litigation. But the utility does not discriminate against cannabis growers, he said.
“We treat these customers as we would any other corporate customer,” Vowels said. “They give us an estimated load and we plan accordingly.”
The lawsuit alleges Buddy Boy Farms was required to pay for certain equipment and the relocation of an electricity pole following the explosion. Vowels said in an email that rates are regulated, and thus the cost of connecting to the grid is passed on to Avista customer.
The lawsuit does not specify an amount of damages sought by Buddy Boy Farms. Morris said the explosion, which melted Avista’s infrastructure and destroyed some of the lights and heating devices the farm had purchased, occurred in November 2016 just as the winter chill set in, during a season that saw a historic dumping of snow, prompting the farm to invest in space heaters to keep their plant starts warm.
“This is a capital-intensive business,” Morris said. “You can’t get banks to give you money. You’ve got to ramp up production using revenue.”
Buddy Boy has recovered from the financial loss, posting sales figures in August that jumped 369 percent compared to the same month in 2017, according to data reported by the state’s Liquor and Cannabis Board. But that process was delayed by the issue with Avista, Morris said.
Avista had not filed any documents responding to Buddy Boy’s allegations as of Wednesday afternoon. The case is scheduled for a court hearing in February.
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