Trump proposes selling TVA assets; Alexander and Corker say that won’t happen

President Donald Trump’s federal budget proposal calls for selling Tennessee Valley Authority’ electric transmission assets to help pay for a new $1.5 trillion infrastructure program, reports Michael Collins.

“The private sector is best suited to own and operate electricity transmission assets,” the administration wrote in the president’s proposed budget. “Eliminating the federal government’s own role in owning and operating transmission assets encourages a more efficient allocation of economic resources and mitigates unnecessary risk to taxpayers.”

The Trump administration justifies the proposed sale by noting that the vast majority of the nation’s infrastructure is owned and operated by for-profit, investor-owned utilities.

“Ownership of transmission assets is best carried out by the private sector where there are appropriate market and regulatory incentives,” the budget says.

Selling off TVA’s assets will require congressional approval. But the proposal drew immediate condemnation from some members of Congress, just as it did when President Barack Obama pushed a similar plan.

“This loony idea of selling TVA’s transmission lines seems to keep popping up regardless of who is president,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. “It has zero chance of becoming law.”

When Obama made a similar proposal in 2013, “all it did was undermine TVA’s credit, raise interest rates on its debt, and threaten to increase electric bills for 9 million Tennessee Valley ratepayers,” Alexander said.

Obama wanted to put TVA under state and local control, but abandoned the proposal in 2016 amid opposition in Congress. In scrapping the proposal, the Obama administration also noted that TVA had taken significant steps to improve its operating and financial performance.

Sen. Bob Corker also said in a press release that the Trump proposal is unlikely to become law.

While it is important to remember that TVA has not received any taxpayer funding since 1999 and has taken positive steps in recent years to pay down its debt, as I’ve said before, I think it’s valuable to evaluate from time to time reforms that could cause TVA to function more effectively for Tennessee taxpayers and ratepayers,” said Corker. “That said, at the end of the day, selling TVA is a very unlikely outcome.”

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