HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-Could a proposal by President Obama raise your monthly utility bill? Officials at Huntsville Utilities say that's exactly what will happen if the president's plan to sell publicly-owned TVA gets the green light.
President Obama's 2014 budget plan calls for a strategic overview of the Tennessee Valley Authority, which is the sole power distributor for Huntsville Utilities. TVA is one hundred percent self-sufficient and therefore not federally funded. However, its $25 billion debt is included in the overall federal debt. The White House claims that privatizing TVA would help erase the federal government's red ink, but utility officials said it's a cosmetic change at best that ultimately hurts ratepayers across TVA's seven state region.
"The bottom line is we think it's more expensive and not good for our customers," said Huntsville Utilities Chief Operating Officer Jay Stowe. "We would expect there to be higher bills if it [TVA] was sold...our customers have already paid for the resources over the last eighty years. It feels like if the private company were to come in that they [customers] would be repaying for that. So we think it's a better model to stay like it is."
Ratepayers we talked to say they're concerned about the prospect of TVA being sold to a private outlet. TVA customers currently have some of the lowest utility rates in the nation.
"I think it would be bad, and I think the rates would go up," said Huntsville Utilities customer Marilyn Farrell. "I know several people out of work, several people that are elderly, and I think it would be a big hardship."
Selling off TVA would require approval from Congress, which has not indicated strong support for President Obama's proposal.
TVA was created in the 1930's by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in an effort to provide affordable power for poverty-stricken areas of the Southeastern United States.