some text
Tennessee Valley Authority headquarters and TVA logo

TVA's incoming leader will have some authority previously not afforded to a TVA chief executive, thanks to some partisan bickering.

Five Tennessee Valley Authority board members on Monday approved delegations of authority to Bill Johnson, who will take over the reins of TVA on Jan. 1, to enable TVA to do business while Congress considers new board nominees.

"We're making these authorizations and delegations today as contingencies, in case the board does not have a quorum in the coming weeks," Chairman Bill Sansom said.

When five or more of the nine board seats are vacant, the board lacks a quorum.

Five presidential nominations for the nine-member board are pending -- one since February and four since September -- yet the Senate has not acted, even though U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., serves on the committee responsible for handling them.

Now, three of the board's nine positions are vacant, and the terms of two other directors will end this month.

The pending nominations for all five seats will expire then, as well.

Last week, Alexander and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., blamed the delay on President Barack Obama, saying he made the nominations too late for senators to vet the nominees. In September, Alexander complained that he had not been consulted on the nominations, and both he and Corker said TVA was not a priority in Washington.

TVA provides electricity for 9 million people in seven states, and the authorizations approved Monday involve billions of dollars.

Sansom said five authorizations and delegations approved by the board address some issues TVA could face without a quorum in the coming months.

The authorizations include:

• The CEO could approve a new lease, power purchase, or similar arrangements for the Southaven natural gas combined-cycle plant in Mississippi. TVA's current lease arrangements for Southaven expire April 30, 2013.

• Financing resolutions approved by the board in August 2012 for power bonds and other financing arrangements would be extended, up to a maximum of $2 billion, if the board is without a quorum at the end of fiscal year 2013.

• The CEO could extend TVA's existing power arrangements or approve new arrangements with the United States Enrichment Corp., TVA's largest customer.

• Also on behalf of TVA, the CEO could approve settlements of dispute proceedings and could approve contracts committing TVA to supply new firm power loads greater than 100 megawatts.

In other action, the board authorized a one-time modification of the eligibility and pricing provisions of the 1994 board-approved Real Time Energy pricing program.

Current CEO Tom Kilgore told the board this will address a unique competitive situation and help attract a small industrial customer being recruited by two local power companies, but he said the bargain rate isn't something TVA wants to do again.

"This rate doesn't lose money, and it makes a contribution to our fixed costs," he said.

The board directed TVA management to undertake a comprehensive review of the program.

TVA spokesman Duncan Mansfield said TVA has functioned without a quorum of board members on four occasions, including two periods of five to six months.

The board operated without a quorum in 1999, when Craven Crowell served as sole board member and chairman for six months. The board has acted without a quorum three other times, in 1957, 1978 and 1993, Mansfield said.

The TVA board's next regular meeting is scheduled in February.

Contact staff writer Pam Sohn at 423-757-6346 or