This Wednesday, April 6, 2022, at 2:30 PM ET, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing to review three nominations to the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Board of Directors. The nominees are Beth Geer, Robert Klein, and L. Michelle Moore. The three were nominated by President Biden on April 20, 2021.
This hearing is the first step in the confirmation of these nominees to the TVA Board of Directors, which is TVA’s regulator and serves a role similar to a state Public Service Commission, municipal city council, or cooperative utility board.
Hailing from, Nashville, Tennessee, Greer is Chief of Staff to former Vice President Al Gore and serves on Nashville’s Sustainability Advisory Committee. She has sustainability and climate change policy experience and has had previous roles in the White House, Department of Labor, and Senate. Geer is a native of rural Tennessee, a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), and has a Public Leadership Executive Certificate from the Harvard Kennedy School Senior Managers in Government program.
Known as Bobby to his family and friends, Klein is a lifelong Chattanooga, Tennessee resident and served in the Tennessee Army National Guard. Klein became a lineman for the Chattanooga electric municipal utility, EPB, in 1982. He later served in various leadership positions in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) local union and regional district. Klein has also been on boards for the state of Tennessee and the Chattanooga United Way, and several state and regional Labor Councils.
Moore has roots in rural Georgia and a background as a social entrepreneur. Moore worked on sustainability in the Obama White House, and currently serves as CEO of Groundswell, a nonprofit that “builds community power through equitable community solar projects and resilience centers, clean energy programs that reduce energy burdens, and pioneering research initiatives that help light the way to clean energy futures for all. Groundswell leads clean energy programs and projects in six states including the District of Columbia, including serving more than 5,000 income-qualified customers with more than $1.85 million per year in clean energy savings.”
President Biden also nominated Kimberly Lewis of Huntsville, Alabama, but she has since withdrawn to run for state senate.
TVA’s current Board of Directors is at quorum, with only five of nine seats filled. Two current Directors have terms that expire this May, though Directors can serve through the end of the calendar year if a replacement has not been confirmed.
Since TVA is a federally-owned utility, it is not regulated at the state level. The TVA Board serves as the primary regulator of TVA’s activities, with an Inspector General and Congressional committees serving in additional oversight roles.
The TVA Act states that the TVA Board be made up of nine members, seven of whom are legal residents of the TVA service area, and that they represent diversity, including geographic diversity. The geographic diversity factor has been of particular interest of late as the current Board includes members from Georgia and Tennessee, while the remaining three nominees are also from Georgia and Tennessee. In fact, the Mississippi Public Service Commission recently approved a resolution calling on President Biden to appoint Mississippians to the TVA Board. The three nominees listed above will also expand the Board’s gender diversity from one to three women, but with the approval of these three nominees, the TVA Board will remain all white.
Since there is a current seat still open, and two more seats become open next month, we expect President Biden will name additional nominations to the TVA Board soon. The Senate may even choose to hold off on voting for the current nominees in order to vote on a full slate of six nominations, which would fill the TVA Board until further terms end in May of 2023.
TVA’s current Board has voted to give TVA’s CEO, currently Jeff Lyash, more discretionary power. Of particular importance, in a vote at its November 2021 meeting, the Board allowed Lyash to make final decisions on how to replace two large and retiring coal plants in Tennessee: Cumberland and Kingston. Lyash has made numerous public statements that indicate his preference is to replace those retiring plants with new gas plants and pipelines, despite the fact that TVA has yet to complete a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for replacement options. The draft EIS for Cumberland’s replacement is expected this month, with a final decision by the end of 2022. TVA’s draft EIS for Kingston is expected by the end of the year with a decision likely in the middle of 2023.
As TVA’s regulator, the TVA Board is a key tool for President Biden to get TVA on track with prioritizing energy efficiency, removing fabricated barriers to distributed clean energy, and aligning resources plans with climate science. We urge nominees to be approved swiftly, and for future nominees to represent the qualified and diverse candidates in the area who can advocate for the over 10 million TVA customers spanning seven states.