TVA board changes coming in 2010

- The Tennessee Valley Authority has had a lot of press coverage this month on the anniversary of the coal ash spill at the Kingston Fossil Plant on December 22, 2008, and that was entirely expected.

Other significant news about TVA might have been missed. For example, the federal utility has had less publicity on the changes that likely will come in its board of directors, and that also is newsworthy.

This month, President Barack Obama nominated Knoxville businessman Bill Sansom for another term on the TVA board, a move that came with bipartisan support from the state's delegation in Congress.

That Sansom, a Republican who served as commissioner of transportation in the administration of former governor Lamar Alexander, was recommended by U.S. Rep.

Bart Gordon, D-Murfreesboro, and nominated by a Democratic president speaks volumes about Sansom's leadership abilities and his standing in the state as well as the community.

Sansom was named to the TVA board by President George W. Bush in 2006. His term expired in May, but he had been allowed to remain on the board until the president named a successor. He said he had not expected to be renominated.

Sens. Bob Corker and Alexander praised Sansom's nomination. Alexander said Sansom was "an excellent choice." Corker said, "I can't imagine him not being on the TVA board at this critical time."

Environmentalists might believe Obama missed an opportunity to name someone compatible with the president's views on environment and energy, but at this time, TVA needs a steady, reliable hand, and Sansom is a strong choice.

Other appointments might signal change as the agency examines its culture and its mission, with changes almost certainly to come in energy policies in the 21st century.

The president also this month named Marilyn A. Brown, a Georgia Tech professor who formerly worked at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, to the TVA board. At ORNL, Brown managed one of the nation's largest energy efficiency research and development programs.

Brown co-led the report Scenarios for a Clean Energy Future, an engineering-economic analysis of low-carbon energy options in the U.S. She shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore and others for her work with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Earlier this year, Obama selected Neil McBride, an attorney from Oak Ridge, and Barbara Haskew, an economics professor at Middle Tennessee State University.

Confirmation hearings are expected early next year, perhaps as early as next month. We urge the Tennessee delegation to help Congress move along with the process swiftly and smoothly.

TVA is facing change, much of it resulting from the coal ash spill but as well from a changing energy climate. The agency needs solid leadership in controlling and directing that change for its 9 million residential customers in a seven-state area.


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