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Staff Photo by Jeff Guenther / Transmission lines like TVA's high-voltage lines near Chickamauga Dam are getting increased demand as more power is sold across the country.

This story was updated Thursday, March 5, 2020, at 5:30 p.m. with more information.

Democrat and Republican members of Congress in Tennessee may differ in their views of President Donald Trump, but they are united in opposing a Trump proposal to sell the transmission assets of the Tennessee Valley Authority.

In a letter to Trump released Thursday, Tennessee's two U.S. senators and eight of the state's nine members of the U.S. House said they are in "strong opposition" to the White House budget proposal for TVA to dispose of its transmission assets to help pay down the debt of TVA and the federal government. The letter echoed the sentiment of the Tennessee Congressional delegation a year ago to a similar White House proposal, which was quickly discarded by the U.S. Congress.

"Proposals to sell TVA's assets undermine the utility's credit, threaten to raise interest rates on the agency's debt, and discourage investment which is harmful to the 9 million ratepayers that we represent," the Tennessee lawmakers wrote in their letter to the president. "The transmission assets that the budget request proposes to sell have been paid for by TVA ratepayers – not by federal taxpayers. Forcing TVA to sell these assets would severely hamper TVA's ability to serve businesses and families in Tennessee. Further, TVA does not receive any federal taxpayer subsidies or federal appropriations, and federal taxpayers are not on the hook for the utility's debt."

The letter praised TVA for helping to create or retain nearly 500,000 jobs and encourage more than $55 billion of new capital investment in its 7-state region since 2013 due to what the lawmakers said was TVA's "outstanding" power reliability favorable electric rates.

"TVA's ability to provide reliable, affordable power is essential to the TVA region's families and businesses," the lawmakers said in their letter.

The only Tennessee Congressional representative not to sign the letter was U.S. Rep. Mark Green, R-Brentwood.

Alexander has called the proposal to sell the Tennessee Valley Authority's transmissions lines "a looney idea with zero chance of becoming law."

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 former President Obama early in his presidency. That plan also was rejected by Congress.

TVA President Jeff Lyash said the federal utility operates as an integrated agency to manage the Tennessee River and the region for economic development, environmental protection, flood control, navigation and reliable energy. Lyash said last month that splitting up ownership of TVA's generation from its more than 16,000 miles of transmission lines threatens to undermine TVA's integrated approach.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340.

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