Trump plan would study sale of federal utility's assets

The infrastructure plan outlined by President Donald Trump on Monday suggests studying whether the nation's largest public utility should sell its transmission assets, which Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander called "a looney idea" with "zero chance of becoming law."

Tennessee Valley Authority spokesman Jim Hopson said the federal utility is still evaluating what the plan would mean for it. The utility plans to work with the Office of Management and Budget to help understand the full implications of the proposal, Hopson added.

"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," TVA CEO Bill Johnson said in a statement. "Implementing the stated proposal in the President's 2019 budget of selling TVA's transmission assets would require Congress to act legislatively."

An outline of the White House's plan says the federal government owns and operates certain infrastructure that would be more appropriately owned by state, local or private entities.

"Federal ownership of these assets can result in sub-optimal investment decisions and create risk for taxpayers," the plan outline says.

Alexander said the idea of selling TVA's transmission lines keeps popping up, regardless of who is president.

He cited his opposition to then-President Barack Obama's similar, failed 2013 plan.

"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," Alexander said in a statement.

Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee added that he thinks "selling TVA is a very unlikely outcome."

TVA is the 1930s product of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal and aimed to help the region recover from the Great Depression. Its coverage area carves through seven Southern states.