Senate lags on approving two TVA board members

Posted on January 8, 2008

Thanks to inaction by the U.S. Senate, the TVA Board of Directors is down two members to start the new year. Already shorthanded since the resignation of Bill Baxter a year ago, the board is temporarily losing two directors - Susan Richardson Williams of Knoxville and Bishop William H. Graves of Memphis - whose nominations hang in limbo in the Senate. A third nominee, Thomas C. Gilliland of Georgia, also must wait to fill Baxter's unexpired term. The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works confirmed the three nominees in December, but the full Senate failed to act on the nominations before adjourning later in the month. The Senate does not meet again until Jan. 22. According to the TVA Act, Williams and Graves, whose terms officially expired last May, could not serve past the end of the last session of Congress. Williams chairs the board's community relations committee, of which Graves is also a member. Williams said Monday that the committee, now down to two members, had been working on a board-level policy for water transfers from the Tennessee River and aspects of shoreline construction. Bill Sansom, a Knoxville businessman who chairs the TVA board, said he could assign an interim chair to the community relations committee if there were pressing business that needed to be done by the board's next meeting in February. But Sansom said he would wait and see what the Senate does when it returns to session. "We're not reacting that this is a crisis by any means," Sansom said. Williams was appointed to the TVA board in 2006 as part of a group of nominees that expanded the panel to nine members. Graves, the board's first black member, was appointed later in the year. Their terms would expire in 2012. Gilliland, whose term would expire in 2011, would be the first Georgian to serve on the board. "The TVA board has a quorum and will continue to conduct TVA business while the nomination process continues," said TVA spokesman John Moulton. "We hope to return to the full complement of nine members on the board soon." Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican and co-chairman of the TVA congressional caucus, sits on the Senate committee that considered the TVA nominees. "The senator is disappointed that these first class, experienced nominees to the TVA Board weren't approved by the Senate in December," said Alexander spokesman Lee Pitts. "He is working with leaders on both sides of the aisle to make sure this is resolved as quickly as possible so TVA can continue its mission of providing clean, reliable electricity to the residents and businesses of the Tennessee Valley."