Developer Franklin L. Haney offered to pay President Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, $10 million if Cohen could secure federal loan guarantees to help finance the completion of a former TVA nuclear plant in Alabama, according to the The Wall Street Journal.
Haney reportedly met with Cohen on Haney's yacht in Florida in early April and offered a consulting agreement that would pay Cohen $10 million if he successfully convinced Trump's Department of Energy to grant $5 billion in loan guarantees to help finance completion of the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant in Hollywood, Alabama, according to several sources quoted by the Journal in Friday's edition.
Haney's Nuclear Development LLC, which has already successfully convinced the federal government to grant $2.68 billion in production tax credits if he completes the twin-reactor complex at Bellefonte, is also seeking federal loan guarantees to help pay for construction on the unfinished nuclear plant.
Haney has optioned to buy Bellefonte for $111 million from the Tennessee Valley Authority, which abandoned the Alabama facility after more than 40 years of construction and maintenance. Haney said earlier this week he is committed to finishing the plant and is working with the Montreal-based SNC Lavalin to oversee completion of the twin-reactor plant. The company is working with nearly two dozen design, engineering and construction firms on plans for finishing Bellefonte.
TVA President Bill Johnson said Friday that he expects electricity demand in the region to be stagnant, or even decline, in the future as more energy efficient homes and appliances reduce their electric usage. Johnson also said that finishing Bellefonte, which was started in 1975, was too big of a financial risk given all of the uncertainties about what is required and whether there will be demand for the plant's output.
"Completing a plant that has been idled — and really knowing where you are and what it takes to finish it — we thought was too big of a risk for us," Johnson told analysts Friday during the utility's quarterly earnings report.
Haney claims he has a buyer for the power output from one of two 1,200-megawatt reactors at Bellefonte and is looking for others to sell the electricity a second unit at Bellefonte could produce. Preston Swafford, a former nuclear chief at TVA who now heads nuclear powre at SNC Lavalin, likens finishing Bellefonte to the work he oversaw bringing back TVA's oldest reactor at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in Alabama, which had been idled for more than a decade.
Swafford estimates the Unit 1 reactor at Bellefonte could be finished for $3 billion, which is even less than the $4.7 billion TVA spent to bring the Watts Bar Unit 2 online last year following its prolonged work suspension. Johnson called the new Watts Bar reactor "a real bargain" since its completion was done at less than half the cost of other new reactors now being built in Georgia.
But Haney appears to still be trying to raise equity capital and convince the Department of Energy to grant the federal loan guarantees authorized by Congress to help spur more new nuclear power development.
The Wall Street Journal first reported in May that Haney and Cohen had met in April, just 10 days before the FBI raided Cohen's office files. The Journal said Haney and Cohen met with met with Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim bin Mohamed al-Thani, the vice chairman of the Qatar Investment Authority, to seek an investment in Bellefonte. The newspaper said the meeting was at the Four Seasons Hotel at the Surf Club near Miami Beach, just south of where Haney now lives in a former Hearst mansion on the Atlantic Ocean in Manalapan, Fla.
Although Cohen was referred to as Trump's "fixer" and "personal attorney" for years before Trump was elected president, the president has since severed ties with Cohen, who is now under federal investigation in New York in connection with his work for Trump and his private business deals.
The Journal said if Haney had paid Cohen the $10 million to help secure the DOE loan guarantees for Bellefonte, it could have been the biggest consulting agreement Cohen obtained after he bragged about his personal relationship with Trump.
But Haney's attorney, Larry Blust, denied Haney contracted with Cohen to help with the Bellefonte project.
"Neither Mr. Haney no Nuclear Development LLC ever entered into a contract with Michael Cohen or his affiliate for lobbying services related to the Bellefonte project," Blust said in a statement to the Journal.
Haney previously donated more than $1 million to Trump's inauguration and has hired former Congressman Bud Cramer of Alabama, among others, to help work on the Bellefonte project.