Jeff Lyash is president and CEO of the Tennessee Valley Authority. He wrote this in collaboration with the Tennessee Business Forum, which provides Tennessee-connected business leaders with the opportunity to engage with other executives from various industries to discuss a broad range of national legislative and regulatory issues. Learn more at Tennesseebusinessforum.com. See the article here.
ATVG will be having their fall meeting at the Marriott Downtown Gatlinburg TN October 24-25. Please make your reservations early! See Agenda and Registration here
The ATVG Quarterly Newsletter for summer 2023 has been published and ready for members to enjoy. It contains Registration and Agenda for our upcoming meeting at Brasstown Resort in Young Harris GA as well as informative stories about TVA latest happenings.
ATVG Support of SMRs
By: Mike Arms, ATVG Executive Director
Our ATVG membership heard a detailed presentation on Winter Storm Elliott from TVA at our January meeting. The presentation provided an hour-by-hour break-down of the events on December 23rd and 24th. The timeline included the loss of Cumberland Unit 1followed a few hours later by the loss of Cumberland Unit 2. With the entire Tennessee River Valley approaching 5 degrees Fahrenheit from a frigid winter storm front that produced a 40 degree temperature drop in a few short hours, the rolling black-outs were mandated to protect the TVA grid. Throughout this weather crisis TVA’s nuclear fleet performed superbly. This nuclear performance begs the question, “Will Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) be the solution to a similar future crisis?”
ATVG is on record with two resolutions of support for nuclear energy and for SMR’s. Now the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has certified the design for what will be the first SMR in the nation. The new design is inherently safer than the prior large nuclear reactors.
The rule that certifies this design is now published in the Federal Register. This certification means companies seeking to build and operate a nuclear power plant can pick the design for a 50-mega-watt, advanced light-water SMR by Oregon-based NuScale Power and apply to the NRC for a license.
The NRC certification is the final determination that the design is acceptable for use, so this design cannot be legally challenged during the licensing process when someone applies to build and operate a nuclear power plant.
With an approved design in place SMRs are no longer an abstract concept but a new clean, green power source. ATVG has always supported nuclear power as the logical answer for utilities’ transition from fossil fuels to reduce greenhouse emissions. Our organization remains supportive of the Oak Ridge “Clinch Reactor Site” as the first SMR location in the Tennessee Valley. ATVG is also prepared to help communities in the Valley consider SMR locations when appropriate. SMRs are the centerpiece of the next generation of nuclear reactors and will be a source of safe, reliable, and affordable green energy.
During the Fall meeting of ATVG Board of Directors in Gatlinburg, TN, on October 25, Lamar Paris (Right), Sole Commissioner of Union County, Georgia was elected President of the Association of Tennessee Valley Governments for upcoming year 2023.
Photo: ATVG Executive Director Mike Arms and President-Elect Lamar Paris present a plaque to Bill Newman (Left), out going ATVG President for his leadership and service during 2022.
During the meeting of the ATVG Board on April 26, 2022 at Oak Grove, KY, ATVG Treasurer Brent Greer presented the annual audit of the previous budget year. Mr. Greer stated, “I am pleased there were no findings in the audit for our last budget year completed June 30, 2021.” The audit was completed by Blackburn, Childers, and Steagall, PLC of Johnson City, TN. The audit may be viewed here.
The ATVG Spring 2022 Newsletter has been published and is ready for ATVG membership to enjoy and stay up to date on latest of TVA happenings! View newsletter here!
Mike Arms, ATVG Executive Director is asking for ATVG membership to update their contact information. This can be easily done through an online form for ATVG members. Members can click this link: https://nwtn.readyop.com/fs/4c9o/9a01 with their computer or mobile device and quickly update their contact information. Director Arms states, “We are looking to update our database with our members most current information for distribution of our quarterly ATVG Newsletter. We want our membership to be as informed as possible on the issues of TVA and TVA local governments.”
TVA and a New Administration
By Mike Arms, ATVG Executive Director
While many of us were busy with last-minute shopping the week before Christmas, Senator Lamar Alexander was diligently working to complete some critical legislative tasks. Two of the tasks were ensuring the full Senate confirmations of Dr. Beth Harwell on December 19 and Dr. Brian Noland on December 20 to serve on the TVA Board of Directors. Speaking for the Association of Tennessee Valley Governments (ATVG) this action was significant for local governments in the 200 counties in TVA’s service region for several reasons.
A primary reason was that for several months TVA’s nine-member Board of Directors consisted of only five members which is the minimum quorum required to conduct business. Local governments are one of TVA’s largest customers (consumers of electric power). Think about the electricity consumed to heat, cool and operate courthouses, city and town halls, justice centers and jails, senior and community centers, parks and recreation centers and, most of all, schools for the 1 million public school students in local systems in the 200 counties in TVA’s seven-state service region. Stability of the TVA Board is important to local governments and all other TVA stakeholders. If for any reason the TVA Board membership falls below the five-person quorum it would not be able to make new policy decisions including major financial decisions. While the agency could continue to operate and produce electricity, its policy actions would be problematic and could always be challenged. Having a full Board provides more stability as well as representation from multiple states.
Another reason that local governments are positive about these two new members is that both bring new skill sets to the Board. Beth Harwell served three decades in the Tennessee legislature and held various leadership positions. She brings to the TVA Board unique insights into the needs and challenges of local governments. Brian Noland brings broad experience in the education sector which includes his current role as President of East Tennessee State University. He has a thorough understanding of the Tennessee Valley’s challenges in workforce development in all areas from engineers and computers scientists to welders and electricians. He will be an asset in TVA’s economic development mission. Local government leaders realize the importance of a well-prepared workforce for their local and regional economies.
TVA now has seven members serving on its Board and two vacancies. Two of President Trump’s nominations, Charles Cook of Mississippi and Rick Roden of Alabama, did not complete the confirmation process. These two nominees have strong private sector business experience and economic development experience respectively. The Senate clock simply ran out before their confirmation hearings could be scheduled and now President Biden will be responsible for these two nominations. Looking back, the Christmas week confirmations of Harwell and Noland as the Senate session was ending reflect the hard work and political clout of Lamar Alexander.
So, what happens now? The Senators in the seven-state TVA region have a “non-binding agreement” that when a Board vacancy occurs the new Board nomination comes from the state where the departing Board member served. This practice is not dictated by the TVA act. In fact, up to two Board members can be nominated by the President from a state outside the seven-state TVA service region. Local governments and probably many other TVA stakeholders would certainly question this action. Most expect a Biden nomination from both Alabama and Mississippi after consultation with democratic elected officials from the two states. In May of this year two additional Board terms expire. Board Chair, John Ryder, a prominent attorney from Memphis who has served as General Counsel for the Republican National Committee and Kenneth Allen, a Kentucky native who has served as a coal company executive will be replaced by Biden nominations. Then on May 18, 2022 A.D. Frazier a Georgian who served as an executive for the Atlanta Olympic games will see his term expire. In only 16 months the Biden administration can nominate five new members, each with a five-year term, on the nine-person TVA Board and with the Democratic control of the Senate, confirmation of these nominees should be straightforward.
What can TVA expect from the new administration? Certainly, Board member diversity will be addressed. Currently the TVA Board is composed of six white men and one white woman. This situation will probably be remedied in the next nominations. When A.D. Frazier’s term expires undoubtedly the two new Senators from Georgia will weigh in heavily on the replacement. If climate change initiatives are pushed or the “green new deal” takes any legs, these new ventures can certainly impact TVA policy through a Board majority of Biden appointees. To TVA’s credit it has made major strides in the reduction of fossil fuels in its fuel mix. It has been steadfast in its agreement with EPA to do so. It has made major capital commitments to modernize its nuclear fleet. It has also proactively addressed renewable fuel sources including solar. Some stakeholders believe TVA has not done near enough in the renewable arena. Currently 60% of TVA’s power production is clean energy. Hopefully, the Biden Administration’s energy initiatives will leverage the unique resources of TVA which has served as a “living laboratory” for energy innovation since its New Deal creation by FDR.
What do local governments expect? ATVG realizes policy changes will certainly occur. However, our organization wants the agency to always have a focus on providing clean, reliable and affordable power while also maintaining strong partnerships with local and state governments in economic development activities. This focus has been front and center for 87 years and hopefully will remain the agency’s top priority under any Presidential administration.
Mike Arms is Senior Partner at Tennessee Strategies and serves as Executive Director for the Association of Tennessee Valley Governments (www.atvg.org)