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Corker: Don’t Sell TVA… But Maybe Give It Away

Tennessee Valley Authority might be better off severed from Uncle Sam, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker tells the Chattanooga Times-Free Press.
Corker said he isn’t pushing to sell TVA to try to cut the federal debt, as President Obama proposed last month in his fiscal 2014 budget plan. With nearly $25 billion in debt, TVA probably wouldn’t fetch enough from buyers to pay what it owes, Corker said.
But new approaches for TVA, including converting the agency to a nonprofit corporation or transferring ownership to TVA distributors and customers, might help improve the utility, Corker said.
“I’ve not been comfortable with the federal government involvement with TVA and thinking that that is going to lead TVA to a great place,” Corker told the Times Free Press in a telephone interview Wednesday. “I worry that over time the fact that TVA is controlled by the federal government but in a laissez-fair manner could leave it less and less as an identity to drive economic growth in our state.”
Corker is splitting with most other Tennesseans in the Congress who have balked at a proposal in the Obama budget plan to conduct a strategic study on cutting TVA loose from the federal treasury.
“Reducing or eliminating the federal government’s role in programs such as TVA, which have achieved their original objectives and no longer require federal participation, can help put the nation on a sustainable fiscal path,” the White House says in its budget plan.
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the ranking Republican on the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, said that spinning off the nation’s largest public utility could mean higher electricity prices for the seven states that the authority serves. Just the talk about selling TVA has hurt its bond values and raised TVA’s effective borrowing costs, Alexander said.
Even U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, an Alabama Republican who denounced Obama a “socialist” in January, said the president’s suggestion to privatize TVA is “unsupportable and inexplicable.”
The Tennessee Valley Authority no longer receives any federal funds and is an independent federal corporation that relies entirely upon electric ratepayers to fund its $11 billion-a-year budget. TVA does enjoy the implied backing of the federal government through its federal ownership, which helps the agency maintain a top bond rating and borrow money at a lower rate than do private utilities
.