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TVA board chair says public utility a 'good model'

Travis Loller, Associated Press

COLUMBIA, Tenn. (AP) -- The chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority has expressed confidence in the organization following a proposal in the 2014 Obama administration budget last week that suggested a possible sale of the country's largest publicly owned utility.

At a Thursday board meeting, Bill Sansom said the board welcomes a proposed strategic review of the agency and any suggestions for ways to better serve the people in its seven-state region.

"We think TVA is a good model, and we're confident that ... if it's a good model, it's a good review, and we don't have anything to worry about."

But he also said some areas need improvement and suggested that making those improvements could help TVA in the upcoming review.

Several other board members mentioned the potential sale, with Pete Mahurin referring to it as a "trial balloon." That probably reflects the widely held belief that the Obama administration may not be serious about selling and may have included it in the budget to use as a bargaining tool with conservatives concerned about the federal debt.

TVA had $24.6 billion in debt as of Dec. 31, 2012, according to the utility.

Although TVA does not receive taxpayer appropriations, and taxpayers aren't responsible for the debt, the utility's expenditure of borrowed funds does count in the federal deficit.

Also on Thursday, the board approved creating an advisory council on energy resources. Among other things, the council would advise staff on energy efficiency and renewable energy.

TVA was created in 1933 to deliver low-cost electricity, control flooding and improve the economy of the Tennessee Valley. It currently serves more than 9 million people in the states of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.