TVA board nominees set for Senate hearing and more business news

Staff file photo / The Tennessee Valley Authority building in Chattanooga is shown in 2016.

TVA board nominees set for Senate hearing

A year after being nominated to help direct America's biggest public power utlity, the nominees for the Tennessee Valley Authority board of directors will go before a Senate panel next week for their confirmation hearings in Washington D.C.

The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate, and Nuclear Safety has scheduled a hearing Wednesday on President Biden's nominees for the TVA board and the utility's Inspector General.

Last April, President Joe Biden nominated for the TVA board Beth Geer, the chief of staff for former Vice President Al Gore who now serves on Nashville Mayor John Cooper's sustainability advisory committee; Robert Klein, of Chattanooga, a retired union official with International Brotherhood of Electric Workers; and Michelle Moore, of Washington, the founder of Groundswell, a nonprofit that helps community solar projects; and Kimberly Lewis, the CEO of ProjectXYZ and the first Black woman elected as chair of the Huntsville, Alabama, Chamber of Commerce.

Lewis later decided to run for state office and withdrew her nomination. Ben Wagner has been nominated to serve as TVA's Inspector General.

Geer, Klein, Moore and Wagner will appear before the Senate subcommittee at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday for their confirmation hearings and the full U.S. Senate will vote on their nominations later.

TVA, which serves about 10 million persons in parts of seven southeastern states, is governed by a 9-member board that is appointed by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. TVA's part-time directors serve five year years.

GDP grew last year by most in 37 years

The U.S. economy ended 2021 by expanding at a healthy 6.9% annual pace from October through December, the government reported Wednesday, a slight downgrade from its previous estimates.

For all of 2021, the nation's gross domestic product - its total output of goods and services - jumped by 5.7%, the fastest calendar-year growth since a 7.2% surge in 1984 in the aftermath of a brutal recession. Previously, the government estimated growth in last year's fourth quarter was 7%. The small downgrade reflected a smaller increase in consumer spending and fewer exports, the Commerce Department said.

Looking ahead, however, growth is likely to slow sharply this year, particularly in the first three months 2022. Higher inflation will likely weigh on consumer spending as Americans take a dimmer view of the economy. Home sales have fallen as the Federal Reserve has started pushing up borrowing costs, leading to a sharp increase in mortgage rates. Exports may weaken as overseas economies are disrupted by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

European nations urge conservation

Germany and Austria have activated early warning plans amid concerns that Moscow could cut natural gas deliveries. Together with France, they also urged consumers to conserve energy. Poland announced steps to end all Russian oil imports by year's end.

The moves are fresh signs of how Russia's war in Ukraine is affecting Europe's energy security.

European countries have rejected a demand by Russia that energy supplies should be paid in rubles. They fear this could undermine sanctions on Russia. German officials said Chancellor Olaf Scholz received assurances later Wednesday from Russian President Vladimir Putin that European companies can continue to pay in euros after a new law takes effect Friday.

Scholz's office says he's seeking further details.

- Compiled by Dave Flessner