Three months after being inaugurated, President Joe Biden is quickly putting his stamp on America's biggest public power utility by nominating new directors for nearly half of the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority.
The four nominees for the TVA board announced Tuesday will help diversify the 9-member panel and give it more backers of Biden's green energy policy as the president prepares to host a Summit on the Climate with world leaders on Thursday and Friday.
The board nominations for TVA by the Biden White House include a long-time labor leader in Chattanooga, the former chief of staff to former Vice President Al Gore, an Alabama businesswoman who was the first Black female elected chair of the Huntsville Chamber of Commerce and the head of a nonprofit that promotes solar energy and other green power.
If ratified by the U.S. Senate, the nominees would change the makeup of the current TVA board with six white men and one white woman to a new board with five white men, three white women and a Black woman.
The new board would include the most female directors in TVA history and the first elected labor union representative on the part-time board that oversees TVA. Two of the TVA directors also would be from Chattanooga, which is the power headquarters for TVA and where the biggest share of the utility's 10,000 employees work.
The nominees for the TVA board announced Tuesday by the White House include:
* Robert P. Klein, a lifelong resident of Chattanooga who worked at both Chattanooga Gas Co. and EPB, was formerly the Tenth District international vice president for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) union, which consists of Tennessee, Arkansas, North and South Carolina. During his career, Klein has served on the executive committee and board of directors of the United Way of Chattanooga, the Tennessee Labor-Management Conference, the Tennessee Safety and Health Congress and the Tennessee Valley Trades and Labor Council, where is served as president for 14 years.
If he is confirmed, he would be the second Chattanoogan on the TVA board, in addition to former Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce President Bill Kilbride.
* Kimberly Caudle Lewis is chief executive of PROJECTSYZ, Inc., a Huntsville, Alabama business that provides products and services for engineering, logistics, technical services, manufacturing and international foreign military sales. Lewis has a 25-year career spanning business operations and management, technology, and federal government contracting and was the first black female elected as chair of the Huntsville / Madison Chamber of Commerce. Most recently, she also became the first minority owner of North Alabama's only locally owned broadcast television station, WTZT-TV.
* Beth Prichard Geer of Brentwood, Tennessee was chief of staff to former Vice President Al Gore and now serves as a member of Nashville Mayor John Cooper's Sustainability Advisory Committee. Gore was an early supporter of efforts to combat global climate change, promoting carbon reduction efforts in his 2006 film documentary An Inconvenient Truth. In the past, Geer also has served in senior roles in the Clinton-Gore White House, the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Senate.
* Michelle Moore of Richmond, Virginia is a social entrepreneur and former White House official with roots in LaGrange, Georgia, Moore currently serves as CEO of Groundswell, a nonprofit that builds community power through community solar, clean energy, and resilience programs that share power and savings with more than 4,000 families. She also previously served as a senior executive with the U.S. Green Building Council.
TVA directors are nominated by the president and must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, usually following confirmation hearings before the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Health.
The 5-year terms of TVA Chairman John Ryder and TVA Director Kenneth Allen end in May, although they can stay in their jobs through the end of the year if a successor is not confirmed. Two other seats on the TVA board are now vacant.
In nominating directors before the terms of the existing directors have expired, Biden is taking a more proactive approach to TVA than his predecessors.
The existing TVA board is comprised entirely of appointments by former President Trump, but all of those nominees were confirmed after the term of their predecessor had expired.
Environmental leaders who have urged TVA to do more to promote energy efficiency and to turn to more renewable energy sources welcomed the makeup and speed of the board nominations from the Biden administration.
"We applaud President Biden's quick action to move TVA on the path of decarbonization by nominating four individuals with backgrounds related to clean energy, climate solutions, and the work it takes to provide the vital service of electricity to homes and businesses across the region," said Stephen Smith, executive director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. "We welcome the diversity and experience these new board members will bring, and look forward to working with them to make TVA a leader in clean energy in the near future."
Biden is being urged this week to announce plans to cut U.S. carbon emissions in half by 2030 from the levels of CO2 emissions in 2005. TVA has already cut its carbon emissions since 2005 by nearly 60% and is on pace to reduce such emissions by 70% by 2030, largely by adding and upgrading its fleet of nuclear reactors and replacing its aging coal power plants with natural gas, nuclear and renewable fuels.
As a federally owned corporation, Biden could push TVA to be an even more aggressive leader in carbon reductions, especially since the utility benefits by power generated from 29 hydroelectric stations built at TVA dams funded in the past by the federal government.
Most of the Tennessee Valley congressional delegation are Republicans and offered no immediate comment on the TVA nominees. U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, one of only two Democrats among the nine Tennessee House members, said he was "pleased that two of the four nominees are Tennesseans with considerable experience.
"I look forward to their confirmation by the U.S. Senate," Cooper said.
TVA directors are paid annual stipends of $55,142 a year, and the board chairman is paid $60,175 a year, to set the policies and hire the CEO of the $10 billion-a-year federal corporation. The board has regular public meetings four times a year.
Contact Dave Flessner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6340.