President Donald Trump sent a proposal to Congress Monday calling on them to address improvements and changes to the nation's infrastructure system, including suggesting the sale and privatization of Tennessee Valley Authority transmission assets.
In the proposal, Trump said the federally owned TVA transmission lines should be privatized or possibly controlled by state or local entities, saying federal ownership results in "sub-optimal investment decisions."
Trump listed the TVA's transmission lines as one of a few examples for potential divestiture, or sale, from the federal government.
"Providing Federal agencies authority to divest of Federal assets where the agencies can demonstrate an increase in value from the sale would optimize the taxpayer value for Federal assets," the proposal said.
Tennessee's two Senators responded to the suggestion Monday, saying the proposal was unlikely to be approved.
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander called the suggestion "a looney idea," that has zero chance of becoming a law.
“This looney idea of selling TVA’s transmission lines seems to keep popping up regardless of who is president. It has zero chance of becoming law," Alexander said. "When President Obama proposed this 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.”
Sen. Bob Corker said selling TVA is a "very unlikely outcome."
“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,” Corker said in a statement. “That said, at the end of the day, selling TVA is a very unlikely outcome.”
TVA also responded to the proposal Monday, saying the 16,000 miles of transmission assets described in the proposal have been paid for by TVA customers over the past 85 years, and calling it an integral part of TVA's power system to deliver near 100% reliability for the last 20 years.
TVA also reiterated that it does not receive funds from the Federal Government, but is self-funded through power revenues and public debt markets, and that its obligations are not guaranteed by the federal government.
“TVA was created by an Act of Congress in 1933; and Congress has always had the power to change the role or structure of TVA. Implementing the stated proposal in the President’s 2019 budget of selling TVA’s transmission assets would require Congress to act legislatively," TVA President and CEO Bill Johnson said in a statement.
In 2013, former President Barack Obama's administration similarly suggested a "divestiture of TVA, in part or as a whole” as part of his April 2013 budget outline.
Trump's outline is part of a proposed fiscal year 2019 budget that asks Congress to "act soon" on an infrastructure bill to stimulate at least $1.5 trillion in new investments over the next 10 years and address infrastructure needs in a number of ways across the country. You can read a full 53 page proposal at this link.