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Equipment Being Removed from Enron’s Never Completed Plant in Union County

    A large scale operation to remove turbines and other equipment from a never-completed electric power plant in rural Union County is underway.
        Large cranes and other heavy equipment are at work in downtown New Albany and at the abandoned plant site on County Road 126 in eastern Union County. A supervisor for the contractor removing the equipment told nanewsweb.com Monday that some of the equipment from the plant will be loaded onto railroad cars for shipment to Texas.

Work is underway on Ripley and New Albany Railroad property adjacent to Railroad Avenue to load equipment from the power plant onto rail cars for shipment to Texas.

Work is underway on Ripley and New Albany Railroad property adjacent to Railroad Avenue to load equipment from the power plant onto rail cars for shipment to Texas.

        The former Enron Corporation of Houston, Texas, had invested untold millions of dollars from the late 1990s to 2001 to build the  400-megawatt Union County electric power generating facility whose turbines were to be fired with natural gas. Hundreds of men and women had worked at the plant site building several large buildings, steel towers and other heavy industrial structures.
        In 2001 Enron Corporation started to unravel in what resulted in the then largest corporate bankruptcy in American history. Early in 2001 there was the odd action by Enron founder and chairman Kenneth Lee Lay when he turned over the rolls of president and chief executive officer to Jeffrey K. Skilling. Then, in August 2001, Skilling abruptly resigned, and Lay reassumed those positions. Enron’s financial reports, constructed by the company’s financial officers and audited by Arthur Anderson, one of the world’s largest accounting partnerships, claimed the company was making profits. During the late 1990s Enron stock was selling for $80-$90 per share.

Abandoned transmission equipment at the Enron plant.

Abandoned transmission equipment at the Enron plant.

        Independent financial analysts and writers started noting the opaque nature of Enron’s financial reporting. Bethany McLean, writing in Fortune Magazine on March 5, 2001, challenged the logic of why Enron stock should sell for as much as 55 times earnings. Other analysts started paying closer attention to Enron’s earnings compared to its debt. It emerged that Enron was hiding billions of dollars in debt and billions more in operating expenses in mysterious “special purpose entities.”
        On June 28, 2001 Duke Energy of Charlotte, NC announced it had agreed to buy the Union County plant, which had not been completed. Whether that sale was ever actually consummated is one of many mysteries related to the Enron debacle
        Ken Lay continued to encourage his own employees to invest in the company and a great many had their entire life savings in Enron stock. However, Lay himself sold $300-million in Enron stock from 1998 through 2001. Skilling, too, was dumping millions in Enron stock. By the end of October it had become clear that Enron’s earnings had been fraudulently overstated. The company filed for bankruptcy that December.
        The federal government finally launched a large scale investigation that resulted in Lay and Skilling being convicted of multiple counts of criminal fraud. Skilling is still in federal prison. Lay was said to have died in lightly populated Pitkin County, Colorado, on July 5, 2006, a short time before he was to be sentenced for his crimes. His body was reportedly cremated and the ashes placed at an undisclosed location in the Colorado Rockies.
Contractors have erected their own temporary steel bridge across a small creek running under CR 126.

Contractors have erected their own temporary steel bridge across a small creek running under CR 126.

Union County Fourth District Superviser Randy Owens said the contractors, who are removing equipment from the plant, have been in contact with the county board and have posted a bond adequate to repair any damage that may occur from hauling the huge machines on rural roads.  The contractors have installed their own temporary steel bridge over a small creek that crosses County Road 126 to avoid damage to the regular bridge that handles normal traffic there.

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