Rep Mo Brooks on Bellefonte: Trump admin inaction holding back effort to make long-dormant north Alabama nuclear plant operational
For more than four decades, the Tennessee Valley Authority’s inactive Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant has been a part of the Jackson County skyline. Situated in Hollywood, just to the northeast of Scottsboro off U.S. Highway 72, the plant’s cooling towers can be seen for miles away in all directions.
Initially, construction began on the plant in the mid-1970s and has been on-and-off again through the years.
“Every time I pass Bellefonte, that’s been a carrot hanging out there my entire life here,” Scottsboro City Council President Tony Wallingsford said in an interview with Yellowhammer News. “I mean, it’s been over 40 years. So as long as I can remember, there’s been a Bellefonte project sitting out there. Every time I pass by it, whether it’s by water or by road, those towers to me are just a monument to government waste and failure.”
In 2016, Chattanooga, Tenn. developer Franklin L. Haney breathed new life into the project when he had the winning bid of $111 million at an auction for the plant. Haney now is seeking to make Bellefonte operational, and if the federal government greenlights the project, Haney has said it would create 8,000 to 10,000 construction jobs and more than 2,000 permanent jobs once online.
He has until November to complete the purchase of Bellefonte from TVA.
At a town hall event in Scottsboro last week, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) told Yellowhammer News the only thing that is keeping that from happening is the Trump administration.
“The objective is to get the federal government, on the one hand, to get out of the way of Mr. Haney’s starting up Bellefonte,” Brooks said. “And on the other hand, making sure that Mr. Haney is allowed to take care of the different federal government programs that are available to help ensure that there is an actual start-up of the Bellefonte nuclear power plant. Right now, it’s an executive branch problem that we’re trying to work our way through. Congress has done what it needs to do. Now we’ve got to get the executive branch to make the appropriate rulings.”
Brooks explained that if the plant were to be made into an electricity production facility, the executive branch would need to grant the TVA clearance to purchase Bellefonte power.
“Right now, that’s a barrier at the federal government level, at the executive branch level,” he said. “And it seems to me if TVA needs the power and they’re able to reach a satisfactory rate arrangement with Bellefonte that they ought to have the freedom to do so. But apparently, there are concerns that that freedom is not currently available.”
Brooks added that Bellefonte would have to be given the same tax breaks that the federal government provides to other electricity producers.
“There are also federal tax credit issues,” he said. “The federal government incentivizes the production of electricity for our power grid because it’s a critical element of the United States of America. We need to make sure that Bellefonte is treated the same as some of these other entities that also want to tap into the use of those energy tax credits. So, those are some of the hurdles that we’re trying to clear, but they’re all executive branch issues right now.”
The residents of that part of Jackson County have been wary of investing too much hope in Bellefonte’s success. One likened Haney’s latest effort to the famous Peanuts comic strip scene of Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown as he tries to kick a field goal.
With Haney’s option to buy ending later this year and the tax credits that he is qualified to receive set to expire in 2021, Bellefonte is on the clock. If time expires and the project doesn’t proceed, Wallingsford, who is also currently a candidate for Jackson County Circuit Clerk, says he would like for the county to have its skyline back.
“If we’re not going to make it a nuclear plant — I know that it’s a massive expense, but we need to tear those towers down,” Wallingsford said.
Jeff Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and works as the editor of Breitbart TV. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_poor.