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Lawsuit challenges Bloom Energy deal in Delaware

Randall Chase, Associated Press

DOVER, Del. (AP) -- A Connecticut-based fuel cell manufacturer is suing over Delaware's efforts to help another company establish a fuel cell manufacturing industry in Delaware.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in federal court in Wilmington on behalf of FuelCell Energy Inc. and Delaware resident John Nichols. It accuses Delaware government officials of economic protectionism and discrimination in helping California-based Bloom Energy.

Bloom Energy is building a manufacturing facility at a former Chrysler plant in Newark with $16 million in state incentives.

State officials also are allowing Delmarva Power to count electricity from Bloom's fuel cells toward the utility's renewable energy requirements, even though the fuel cells will be powered by nonrenewable natural gas.

The lawsuit accuses Delaware of allowing Delmarva to force its customers to pay higher rates for their electricity simply to subsidize Bloom and alleges that revisions made to the state's renewable energy portfolio standards last year interfere with interstate commerce.

"It is motivated by economic protectionism and has the purpose and effect of shielding a politically favored, in-state crony company from competition and forcing a unique class of Delaware residents (Delmarva ratepayers) to subsidize its patronage," the complaint reads.

The suit was filed by Cause of Action, a Washington D.C.-based legal advocacy group that is representing FuelCell Energy and the Delaware resident.

The lawsuit names Gov. Jack Markell and members of the state Public Service Commission as defendants.

Markell spokesman Brian Selander accused the Caesar Rodney Institute, a nonpartisan conservative think tank in Delaware that has criticized the deal, of teaming up with an out-of-state special interest group in a last-minute effort to thwart the creation of middle-class manufacturing jobs in Delaware.

"We intend to fight these efforts vigorously to protect these important jobs," Selander said.