Tennessee lawmakers appeal to Trump to drop plan to sell TVA transmission assets

Tennessee lawmakers appeal to Trump to drop plan to sell TVA transmission assets

April 18th, 2018 by Dave Flessner in Breaking News

Despite their partisan differences, the entire Tennessee congressional delegation, plus four other lawmakers in Kentucky and Alabama, united today in an appeal to President Trump to abandon his proposal to sell the transmission assets of the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The 15 Tennessee Valley members of Congress wrote in support of keeping TVA in its present form contrary to a proposal in the White House budget plan to authorize TVA to sell its power transmission operations to another power company to help raise money to pay down its own debt and generate funds for infrastructure upgrades. In a letter to Trump, the members of Congress warned that splitting up TVA's generation and transmission assets could threaten the low-cost power model offered by the federal utility, which was created to serve the 7-state Tennessee Valley in 1933.

"Previous Administrations have proposed selling TVA and its assets and these proposals have all been soundly rejected by Congress," the members wrote. "When President Obama proposed selling TVA in 2013, all it did was undermine TVA's credit, raise interest rates on TVA's debt, and threaten to increase electric bills for 9 million ratepayer."

In the White House infrastructure plan unveiled in February, the Trump administration said TVA and other similar federal agencies should be given the authority to divest of their transmission assets "where the agencies can demonstrate an increase in value from the sale would optimize the taxpayer value for federal assets." President Trump said selling the government-owned transmission lines would help raise funds to pay for other infrastructure projects and could spur more spending by the private sector on the electricity grid.

The sale of TVA's 16,000 miles of transmission lines — one of the biggest transmission networks in the country — would still be far less than the outright sale of TVA proposed by Obama early in his presidency.

Any sale of TVA would have to be approved by Congress, and the White House suggests TVA conduct a study of the merits of such a sale.

The letter against any sale of TVA transmission assets sent to Trump today was signed by U.S. Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, both Republicans, and all nine members of the U.S. House of Representatives from Tennessee, including seven Republicans and two Democrats. Others signing the letter against any sale of TVA assets included U.S. Sen. Doug Jones , D-Ala, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Reps. James Comer, R-Ky., and Trent Kelly, R-Miss.

"TVA's debt is not backed by federal taxpayers, and TVA does not receive any federal taxpayer subsidy or federal appropriations," the lawmakers said in their letter. "TVA has among the lowest power rates in the country which, along with its reliability, help bring numerous new businesses to the region. ...TVA is on a good path."

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340.