Northern Natural Gas, the pipeline company owned by Berkshire Hathaway, has sued a struggling Minnesota ethanol producer, saying the company isn’t paying its bills after idling a plant that produces the liquid commonly used as an additive to motor fuel.
Omaha-based Northern Natural filed the suit against Minnesota Energy late last week in U.S. District Court in Omaha. The suit seeks $475,000 plus interest and attorney’s fees.
Northern Natural is a unit of Des Moines-based MidAmerican Energy Holdings, which owns another pipeline and two utilities. The disputed amount is not of huge importance: MidAmerican is one of Omaha-based Berkshire Hathaway’s largest earnings engines, having contributed $394 million in the first quarter.
Trouble in the ethanol world, however, resonates loudly in the Midwest. Corn is the main ingredient most commonly used in most ethanol plants. And Iowa is the top corn producer, with Nebraska third.
Northern Natural said in the suit that it entered into four contracts with Minnesota Energy starting in 2006 to deliver gas and for “systems management.”
“As of the date of the complaint, Defendant Minnesota Energy has failed to pay Northern the sum of $104,555.49 under the aforementioned Contracts and owes Northern $474,895.36, which represents the total value of the contract,” the suit says.
Attempts to reach officials with Minnesota Energy were unsuccessful.
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Correction: Denver-based BioFuel Energy is in good standing with its vendors, the company said Tuesday, and a company being sued by Northern Natural Gas, Minnesota Energy, has no relationship, past or present, with BioFuel Energy. A previous version of this story incorrectly represented the ties among the companies.