CATEGORY: TVA Tennessee Valley Auth.

AUTHMARTY

HED: TVA board to meet today in Tupelo

By Marty Russell

Daily Journal

The Tennessee Valley Authority Board of Directors will hold its monthly meeting today in Tupelo with an expected update on the Red Hills lignite coal generating plant in Choctaw County and the status of construction of customer service center facilities, including one in Tupelo.

The three-member board has a light agenda planned that also includes easement and deed matters on four parcels of land in Tennessee and some routine business.

The meeting will take place at 10 a.m. in Room 4 of the Ramada Inn Convention Center. Members of the public will have an opportunity to comment on any of the agenda items if they sign up prior to the beginning of the meeting. The public also will be allowed to address the board on any topic during a public comment session following the meeting.

In the past, the public comment sections have been used by environmentalists to protest a variety of TVA activities, many of which the agency has no control over, said Gil Francis, a TVA spokesman.

But in recent weeks, the agency has been attacked by another group consisting of congressmen from non-TVA states who have accused the utility of receiving up to $1.2 billion in federal subsidies to keep its rates low. TVA denies that it receives any federal subsidies and board chairman Craven Crowell's proposal to end all nonpower federal appropriations is seen as one way of heading off such criticism.

The agency, which is charged with providing electrical power, resource management and economic development assistance to a seven-state area, received $106 million in federal funding for its nonpower programs this year. Crowell is proposing eliminating all federal funding in 1999.

U.S. Reps. Bob Franks of New Jersey and Marty Meehan of Massachusetts have introduced legislation calling for an end to federal subsidies for TVA's power program, subsidies Crowell denied in a letter to the two congressmen.

"TVA's power system has been self-financing since 1959 and receives no financial support from the federal government," Crowell wrote in the letter.

He also urged Franks and Meehan to investigate investor-owned utilities that he said showed "disregard for their responsibilities to their ratepayers" by taking deferred income taxes and investment tax credits totaling $103 billion last year.

TVA also is under fire from lawmakers and utilities outside its region for the large debt it incurred while constructing its nuclear power program in the 1970s and '80s. That debt currently stands at $28 billion, with an annual interest payment of about $2 billion.

The agency said it has capped its debt at that level with no future borrowing and will begin to pay down the amount owed beginning next year.

TVA serves all or parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina and Virginia.

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