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updated: 8/22/2014 5:27 PM

Lawyer says power in numbers will help the cause

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  • Video: Batavia Lawsuit

  • Attorney Michael Childress, right, explains the class-action lawsuit brought regarding electricity prices in Batavia and their relation to the Prairie State Energy Campus, while plaintiff Joe Marconi, seated, listens, at a meeting Thursday in Batavia. About 90 people attended.

       Attorney Michael Childress, right, explains the class-action lawsuit brought regarding electricity prices in Batavia and their relation to the Prairie State Energy Campus, while plaintiff Joe Marconi, seated, listens, at a meeting Thursday in Batavia. About 90 people attended.
    Susan Sarkauskas | Staff Photographer

 
 

Lawyers for the people who filed a lawsuit over the cost of electricity in Batavia urged a crowd of about 90 people Thursday to join in the class action to strengthen their case.

"We believe there is power in numbers," said Michael Childress, a partner in the Childress Duffy law firm of Aurora.

Attendees picked up all the 225 signup packets his firm had brought to the meeting at the Batavia Public Library. Some said they would hand them out to neighbors. At least 25 people turned their applications in that night.

Nine Batavia utility customers filed the suit Tuesday against consultants who had advised Batavia when city officials were considering whether to have Northern Illinois Municipal Power Agency, to which Batavia belongs, buy a stake in the Prairie State Energy Campus. PSEC, in Washington County, is a coal mine and electricity plant.

Childress said the more people join the effort formally, the more likely a class will be certified by a Kane County judge. If the class is certified, then all Batavia ratepayers would be automatically included in any judgment or settlement, he said.

He said there is no cost to join the class, and no liability or bills to class members if it loses.

The first object of the suit, he said, is to get information about the deal that has been kept secret due to confidentiality agreements. That, he said, may reveal what Batavia officials were told, and whether things were kept from those officials.

Batavia, Geneva, Rochelle, NIMPA, builder Bechtel Corp., Peabody Energy, the plant's management committee and the other plant owners have been named as respondents in discovery. Childress said he has six months to obtain information from them before deciding whether any of those entities should be named as defendants in the suit.

Class members will be asked to submit their electricity bills, so Childress Duffy can present evidence about what customers paid since the Prairie State deal, what they would have paid if Batavia bought its electricity elsewhere, and what they will likely pay in the future.

Audience members asked what would happen if the suit prevails. Childress said the defendants could choose to settle, perhaps by giving class members money toward their future electric bills.

"Basically, if you make enough noise, they are going to want it to go away," Childress said.

The lawsuit has a website, prairiestateenergycampusclassaction, com.

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