TVA- can anyone intimidate the federal government to silence?

October 30, 2015

It appears that Google has provided enough “hush money” (a promised warehouse costing $600 million) that those involved locally and apparently TVA have signed agreements to keep silent about the “easement” deal between Google and TVA for 350 acres of federal land on the Widows Creek site in Stevenson, Alabama.

Google’s acquisition process has followed a similar path in building data centers worldwide. And if Google prefers that approach in building their data centers, so be it; no quibble there. But there is a major concern about TVA, a federal agency, agreeing not to divulge the details of the transaction, if TVA signed or orally agreed to a lock-down on information.

Congress has passed legislation, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), to keep federal agencies like TVA aware that federal information cannot be withheld when requested. That appears to be the case between TVA and Google; stonewalling is stonewalling in any event if TVA refuses to divulge the details of the deal. Serious consequences, for example, can result if RICO statutes apply. This is not to suggest that any of the parties involved in the “easement” deal between TVA and Google are suspected of carrying out illegal activities, but if Google has sworn a federal agency to secrecy when knowledge of those facts relate to millions of TVA ratepayers, the details of the “deal” must be shared.

TVA has an obligation to keep ratepayers, TVA’s main source of funding, informed and if TVA takes a dictatorial stance about it, well, there’s the FOIA (cough, cough) to try. A Tennessee newspaper tried that approach on another “deal” TVA worked but they were told that TVA’s refusal to release stood and that FOIA would back them up. The only alternative by the inquiring party was to sue, a long and costly venture.

Norsworthy Opinion

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