CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — The U.S. Senate is nearing confirmation votes on four new directors for the Tennessee Valley Authority.
The votes, expected this week or next, would restore the nine-member board to full strength.
Last year, President Barack Obama nominated three Democrats to the board: Middle Tennessee State University professor Barbara Haskew; Georgia Tech professor Mary Brown; and Oak Ridge lawyer Neil McBride. He re-nominated former TVA chairman and Republican businessman Bill Sansom of Knoxville.
The nominations were among 70 initially delayed in February by holds on their confirmation from U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., who objected to a White House plan not to build an Air Force refueling tanker and an FBI explosives center in Alabama.
The four TVA nominees were subsequently endorsed in an unanimous voice vote in early March by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Shelby lifted his hold.
But there has been a further delay since then, now apparently worked out, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who has headed the TVA Congressional Caucus, “has talked with colleagues on both sides of the aisle” to broker a deal to get the new nominees confirmed, Alexander press secretary Jim Jeffries said last week.
The TVA board now has only the bare number of directors required to constitute a quorum for any significant policy decision.
Today, as TVA celebrates its 76th anniversary, the term of TVA director Howard Thrailkill will end.
Thrailkill may continue to serve on the TVA board through the end of the year or until his successor is named, however.
Last month with a limited board membership, TVA put off a planned decision on the future of its Bellefonte Nuclear Plant.
Environmentalists say they don’t want the utility to move ahead with other new power plants until a new board is in place.
Knoxville-based TVA, the nation’s largest public utility, serves about 9 million consumers in Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia. The power system is based in Chattanooga.