- The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, along with officials from the Tea Party and NAACP, called on the head of the Tennessee Valley Authority to resign over allegations of "extravagant" misspending that included two jets and a helicopter valued at $40 million.
- The groups want an investigation of spending at the federal utility, which occurred under the watch of CEO Bill Johnson.
- However, a TVA spokesperson told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that the aircraft are needed to navigate the utility's 80,000 square-mile territory and that other investor-owned utilities of similar size also own aircraft.
While the TVA spending SACE highlights appears extravagant on its face, the utility says owning the aircraft means improved safety and cost.
The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy laid out what it has learned in a blog post this morning. The group says the TVA purchased two Cessna jets each valued around $13 million, and a helicopter with hardwood floors. Along with the upgrade of another aircraft, SACE says the $40 million represents "excessive spending by TVA executives."
The group announced it has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to TVA for the purchase prices and operation history of the aircraft. "We want to know who is flying where and whether there have also been vacations and special junket trips," the group said on its blog.
"We are calling for a full investigation into these excessive purchases which have clearly taken place under Bill Johnson’s watch," SACE Executive Director Stephen Smith said in a statement. "This is the very definition of corruption of the TVA mission."
TVA spokesman Jim Hopson told the Times Free Press that the utility's territory spans 80,000 square miles and its employees "meet with a large number of customers and other stakeholders in parts of seven states as well as prospective companies looking to invest in the Tennessee Valley. The majority of these locations do not have commercial air service, leaving private aircraft as the only option for safe, timely travel."
The federally-owned TVA serves 9 million people in parts of seven southeastern states. The utility says its reliability is almost perfect and its rates remain well below federal averages. The TVA was making news Monday as well, when President Trump revealed a budget that called for divesting the utility.
TVA issued a statement saying any plans to sell the utility would require legislative action. It does not receive any funds from the federal government, and TVA's obligations are not guaranteed by the government.The utility says that over the last five years it has supported the creation or retention of 400,000 jobs and $48 billion in new capital investment.