Keep Dr. Brown at TVA

Keep Dr. Brown at TVA

January 4th, 2013 in Opinion Times

The cooling towers of the TVA Watts Bar Nuclear Plant in Spring City, Tenn.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Tennessee Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander usually can cite some coherent, if labored, reason for the blatantly partisan positions they sometimes take. But there was nothing sensible at all to justify their irrationally partisan refusal Tuesday to bring the presidential nomination of Dr. Marilyn Brown to the TVA board before the Senate for confirmation. Their rejection of her nomination for a second term on the TVA board -- and their infuriating collateral request for the president to find another nominee in place of her -- is simply outrageous.

Dr. Brown's widely applauded expertise in the myriad fields of energy use, energy efficiency and energy policy ranks head-and-shoulders above that of most of the board members who have served as leaders of TVA in recent decades. Her essential energy expertise is clearly well beyond the scope and acumen of any of the four new board members -- a banker, an accountant, a businessman and a lawyer -- who were offered for board service by Sens. Corker and Alexander and confirmed by the Senate Tuesday just minutes before the current congressional session was brought to a close.

Dr. Brown should have been, and was scheduled to be, in that contingent. Her extraordinary resume shows why. She is a co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for co-authorship of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. She is a Distinguished Visiting Scientist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. She is a professor in the School of Public Policy at the Georgia Institute of Technology, more commonly known as Georgia Tech. She is Director of Sustainability in the Enterprise Innovation Institute's Science and Technology Innovation Program. And she is a widely published expert on energy efficiency, technologies, strategies and management.

Her publications include a treatise on, "The Multiple Dimensions of Carbon Management: Mitigation, Adaptation, and Geo-engineering." In other words, she possesses wide expertise on the largest contributor -- carbon -- from fossil fuel consumption to global warming, which is the most critical environmental issue that now confronts the entire world.

She also recently co-authored "Transforming Industrial Energy Efficiency," another approach to the core issues that confront TVA and other electric utilities around the globe. Do a Google search on Dr. Brown's professional work and you will find her name related to all the critical issues in which TVA, the nation's largest public electric utility, must be engaged and should be a leader, but regrettably is not.

Dr. Brown, moreover, has worked closely with current TVA board chairman Bill Sansom on the utility's nuclear energy committee, which oversees nuclear activities that traditionally have been behind schedule, over budget and in violation of safety requirements when plants are built or modified.

Dr. Brown clearly merited reappointment to a second term Tuesday night precisely because she is so qualified. Indeed, it is likely that Sens. Corker and Alexander are attempting to sabotage her re-appointment to the board because they want Sansom -- a longtime Tennessee Republican crony -- to remain chairman. They must fear Dr. Brown would outshine Sansom and attract more votes than him if she received a second term. Her rejection is as simply-minded as that: Politics rules over rational management and critical skills.

Corker and Alexander have a political edge at the moment because, by tradition, senators from the seven states served by TVA -- most of Tennessee, and parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia -- and all of the senators in these states are Republicans. Corker and Alexander simply want to keep Sansom as chairman, and they don't want another smart woman on the board to take over the chairmanship.

Those are unworthy and odious reasons to sabotage Dr. Brown's nomination. TVA rarely has seen such a qualified board member. President Obama should re-nominate her for a second term, and have another senator in the Democratic majority offer her nomination for confirmation. To do less is to ill serve TVA ratepayers.