TVA challenges private jet costs in ongoing Bellefonte trial


HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Wednesday marks the fourth day of the contract dispute trial concerning the sale of the unfinished Bellefonte Nuclear Plant in Jackson County. The proceedings largely focused on damages Nuclear Development is claiming in the lawsuit.

Chattanooga-based Nuclear Development LLC had the winning bid at a 2016 auction for the plant, pledging to pay $111 million to purchase Bellefonte. The closing was scheduled to take place in late 2018.

After the Tennessee Valley Authority pulled out of the deal, Nuclear Development sued TVA for breach of contract, asking for monetary damages, including a $22 million down payment for the plant. TVA contends it couldn’t move forward with the sale because Nuclear Development did not have the proper licensing.

Wednesday, many of the questions TVA’s lawyers asked Nuclear Development CEO Bill McCollum centered around travel expenses Nuclear Development is claiming as damages, specifically the cost of chartering private jets. Nuclear Development says the flights were related to the Bellefonte deal.

McCollum told the court Nuclear Development owner Franklin Haney Senior, was injured and traumatized after being involved in a commercial plane crash.

Several flights were scrutinized in court with costs ranging from $3,500 to more than $9,000.
In an apparent effort to discredit the claims, TVA attorneys pointed to flight manifests asking why the company’s owner brought his wife, friends, and even the family dog along on some flights.

TVA attorneys also pointed out how short some of the distances were that Nuclear Development leaders flew, for example one flight from Miami to West Palm Beach.

After pointing out the short flight to West Palm Beach, a TVA attorney asked McCollum if he had any reason to believe TVA and its rate payers should pay for these flights. McCollum said given than TVA rate payers footed the bill to fly the TVA CEO on a private jet, yes I do.

The trial is scheduled to end Wednesday, but a verdict won’t be reached. Attorneys in the case have been asked to submit additional briefs to the court. Another hearing will be held in several weeks.

The future of Bellefonte remains unclear. TVA says pending the outcome of the trial, there is a possibility they would still like to sell the plant. Nuclear Development has asked the court to order TVA to honor the sales agreement and transfer the property.

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