Open Letter to Sens. Corker and Alexander on TVA Board Nominations

Stephen Smith | January 15, 2013 | Energy Policy

Update: On February 7, 2013 the organizations on this letter received a response from Senator Corker’s office; the letter can be viewed here. We have still received no response from Senator Alexander’s office.

January 11, 2013

The Honorable Robert Corker & Honorable Lamar Alexander
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senators Alexander and Corker,

As organizations with members across the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) service territory, we are writing to express our disappointment and concern in your action to block the reappointment of Dr. Marilyn Brown to TVA’s Board of Directors.  We believe Dr. Brown has served the people of the Tennessee Valley well in her short tenure and has both the credentials and necessary expertise to continue serving as a strong member of TVA’s Board.

We understand your belief that the TVA Board of Directors should have some type of corporate and financial experience, as expressed in your statements to the Chattanooga Times Free Press on Aug. 18, 2012 and reiterated in recent press statements related to the appointment of the four new TVA Board members.  While we do not disagree this is one criterion for a qualified Board member, we must stress that the TVA Board of Directors is made up of nine unique members and it is equally imperative that the Board include individuals with diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise. One-dimensional board experience will not serve the interest of our region well.

Maintaining a diverse Board of Directors stays true to TVA’s multifaceted mission, which dates back to 1933, and includes power production, flood control, water quality, navigation, economic development and public land management among its responsibilities.  This broad mission requires a diverse Board equipped to address the myriad issues that TVA must deal with on a daily basis.

The “Tennessee Valley Act of 1933” as amended states that in making appointments to the Board of Directors, all efforts should be made to “seek qualified members from among persons who reflect the diversity…and needs of the service area of the Corporation.”   The Act also states that in order to be eligible to serve on the Board a person must have “management expertise relative to a large for-profit or nonprofit corporate, government, or academic structure.”  Furthermore, the Act goes on to state that a Director “shall affirm support for the objectives and missions, of the Corporation, including being a national leader in technological innovation, low-cost power, and environmental stewardship.”  In keeping with these aforementioned criteria and the language and spirit of the TVA Act itself, we are perplexed as to why Dr. Brown was not reappointed to the Board.

Having already served two years on TVA’s Board and given her extensive management experience at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Dr. Brown clearly meets the qualifications of a Board member with the necessary management expertise of overseeing a large government structure.  With her impressive academic and scientific background, it is hard to imagine a more qualified member for TVA’s Board.  Given Dr. Brown’s technical expertise in the energy field and her long history and experience at both the ORNL and the Georgia Institute of Technology, we respectfully request that you not oppose the reappointment of Dr. Brown.

We also request additional clarification on your views of the appointment process and of the appropriate credentials needed to serve on TVA’s Board of Directors.

Given the important action of appointing the Board of Directors to the country’s largest public power utility, it is imperative that process be conducted in an open and transparent manner.  Anything less is a disservice to TVA and the 8 million people of the Valley.

We thank you for your consideration and look forward to hearing from you in response to the concerns laid out in this letter.


Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment
Tennessee Environmental Council
Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club
Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning
Tennessee Clean Water Network
Tennessee Conservation Voters
Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
The Environmental Integrity Project
The Natural Resources Defense Council

Stephen Smith
Dr. Stephen A. Smith has over 35 years of experience affecting positive change for the environment. Since 1993, Dr. Smith has led the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) as…
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