TVA

Trump says he’s firing TVA chairman over executive pay, outsourcing

President Donald Trump said he’s firing the chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority over the compensation package of the public utility’s CEO and moves to outsource IT jobs.

The Associated Press reports Trump told reporters at the White House he was removing the authority’s chair of the board and another member of the board, while threatening to remove other directors if they keep hiring foreign labor.

“Let this serve as a warning to any federally appointed board. If you betray American workers, then you will hear two simple words ‘you’re fired,” Trump said.

The TVA chairman is James “Skip” Thompson of Decatur, Ala., one of four directors Trump appointed in his first year in office.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville) in April pushed back against Trump’s attacks on TVA and Lyash.

“Attacking TVA doesn’t do one thing to solve the pandemic and has no place in federal COVID-19 response legislation. TVA does not receive one dollar in federal taxpayer subsidies or federal appropriations,” Alexander said.

The outsourcing of IT jobs became the subject of a TV ad campaign by the U.S. Tech Workers evidently seen by the president, who recently tweeted about the spot.

“Another one of many Fake T.V. ads, this one about the Tennessee Valley Authority, which for years has paid its top executive a ridiculous FORTUNE. Not run by the U.S., but I have long been fighting that crazy ‘salary’ & its policies,” Trump said in the tweet.

The leading Republican candidates for the Senate were quick to praise the president for his moves, though they focused on differing elements. Vanderbilt surgeon Manny Sethi, who has spoken out against TVA compensation since this spring released the following statement:

President Trump was right to take action on the Tennessee Valley Authority. Our public utilities do not need overpaid bureaucrats and executives. I am grateful to see the President take these steps because it will hopefully help TVA move in the right direction- towards transparency and accountability.

Former U.S. Ambassador Bill Hagerty appeared more interested in the foreign workers element:

President Donald Trump is right, we can’t outsource American jobs at a time when our unemployment rate is higher than ever […] Our power grid is an integral component of our nation’s infrastructure and there are significant national security concerns associated with outsourcing any aspect of software or IT management to firms that may be foreign-owned, staffed or otherwise impacted. We need to put the American worker and our national security first.

Harwell, Noland nominated to TVA board

House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) awaits Gov. Bill Haslam’s final State of the State address in Nashville on Jan. 29, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Associated Press)

President Donald Trump has nominated former state House Speaker Beth Harwell and East Tennessee State University President Brian Noland to the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Harwell decided to give up her House seat to make a bid for governor in 2018. She fell short in the the Republican primary won by eventual Gov. Bill Lee.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander said Harwell had worked with TVA on several issues during her time as speaker.

“She understands that TVA’s mission is to continue to provide cheap, clean and reliable electricity throughout the Tennessee Valley, and I know her leadership will be a valuable asset to the TVA board,” he said in a statement.

Alexander called Noland “a respected leader in East Tennessee [who] has helped transform Tennessee’s fourth largest university.”

“His administrative experience makes him the right person to help keep TVA on a good path – to continue to provide clean, cheap, reliable electricity at the lowest possible rates for homes and businesses through the seven-state Tennessee Valley region,” Alexander said.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports TVA directors are paid an annual stipend of $52,702. The chair receives $58,650 a year.

Sethi calls for transparency over TVA coal ash site

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Manny Sethi is urging the public to submit comments about the Tennessee Valley Authority’s plan to to open a 65-acre site near the Kingston Fossil Plant, first as a source for fill material and later as storage for coal ash.

The collapse of a leaking, six-story earthen dam in at the Kingston plant in 2008 released more than a billion gallons of coal ash. It is the biggest industrial spill in modern U.S. history, according to The Associated Press.

Here is the full release from the Sethi campaign:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Valley Authority is seeking public input on a proposed new borrow site, which would open a 60+ acre site on TVA land at Kingston Fossil Plant. There are fewer than 10 days left for the public to comment on the proposed site. 

Recognizing it is an asset to our state, Dr. Manny Sethi, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, believes TVA needs more transparency to serve Tennessee best.

“East Tennesseans deserve transparency. I strongly encourage Tennesseans to make their voices heard by submitting a comment to the Tennessee Valley Authority regarding new plans for the Kingston Fossil Plant,” said Dr. Manny Sethi. 

Below is Dr. Manny’s comment, which he is submitting to TVA:

It is important for the Tennessee Valley Authority to step forward and be responsive to questions that Tennesseans have about Kingston. After all the problems we have seen with mismanagement of facilities and clean up, it is imperative to get this right for the safety of Tennesseans.

East Tennesseans deserve transparency and detailed information from TVA as this process moves forward.

I believe that open meetings are an important part of transparency. I encourage TVA to open each of their meetings to the public. As Senator, I would follow the lead of the Tennessee Legislature in calling for TVA to have open meetings.

The borrow site will provide material for current and future TVA projects, including a storage landfill for coal ash.

To submit a comment, go to www.tva.com/nepa. Comments can be submitted through December 21, 2019.

 

Contract signed for work on unfinished TVA nuke plant being sold to developer; $5B in fed loan guarantees sought

Veteran Chattanooga developer Franklin L. Haney has contracted with a Canadian engineering company to handle much of the work needed to open at least one of the two reactors at the unfinished Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant that Haney is buying from TVA, reports the Times Free Press. And he’s seeking a $5 billion in loan guarantees from the U.S. Department of Energy to finance the work — with support of U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann.

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Small business group criticizes TVA plan to add ‘grid access fee’ to wholesale electricity cost

The Tennessee Valley Authority’s proposal to add a “grid access fee” to wholesale power rates is being criticized by a coalition of small businesses, reports the Times Free PressTVA says the move will make power bills more stable and better reflect actual expenses without raising overall rates. The coalition says it unfairly rewards big industrial users at the expense of small businesses and low-energy individual power users.

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Former TVA board chairman John Waters dies age 88

John B. Waters, who served as chairman of both the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Tennessee Valley Authority,   has died at the age of 88, reports the News Sentinel.

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TVA board nominee Ryder says politicking won’t overly influence his service

Memphis attorney John Ryder assured U.S. senators on Tuesday that his active involvement in Republican politics would not overly influence his decisions as a member of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s board of directors, reports Michael Collins.

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TVA’s $29M million aircraft fleet under attack (verbally)

A collection of consumer and environmental groups teamed Tuesday to blast TVA for spending millions on executive aircraft, contending they benefit wealthy executives, directors and business prospects at the expense of ordinary electric ratepayers, reports the Times Free Press.

TVA has spent nearly $29 million in the past two and a half years to buy nearly identical corporate jets and a specialized Mercedes-Benz Style helicopter formerly used by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

The executive jets and helicopter are part of TVA’s overall aircraft fleet of nine active helicopters, airplanes and jets (plus a King Air 350 plane that TVA bought for $6.5 million and is now for sale). TVA employs five full-time pilots and aircraft supervisors and spends millions of dollars a year to operate its own aircraft.

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Trump proposes selling TVA assets; Alexander and Corker say that won’t happen

President Donald Trump’s federal budget proposal calls for selling Tennessee Valley Authority’ electric transmission assets to help pay for a new $1.5 trillion infrastructure program, reports Michael Collins.

“The private sector is best suited to own and operate electricity transmission assets,” the administration wrote in the president’s proposed budget. “Eliminating the federal government’s own role in owning and operating transmission assets encourages a more efficient allocation of economic resources and mitigates unnecessary risk to taxpayers.”

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Former TVA manager gets probation in plot to provide nuclear info to China

A former senior manager for the Tennessee Valley Authority, recruited by an operative for the Chinese government seeking to buy information on American nuclear information, will avoid any time in prison for his activity, reports the News Sentinel.

Chief U.S. District Judge Tom Varlan on Thursday turned aside a bid by federal prosecutors to have nuclear scientist Ching Ning Guey, 63, imprisoned and instead sentenced the former TVA executive to a three-year probationary term.

Guey was among a half dozen nuclear engineering experts working in the American nuclear power production industry who were recruited by operative Szuhsiung “Allen” Ho, 67, as part of what Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Atchley Jr., has called a plot by China to garner nuclear technological know-how the country was not allowed to access.

But Guey appears to be the only one of those experts who was charged, and court records indicate it was Guey who agreed to help prosecutors snare Ho, who has since confessed guilt and provided the U.S. government with intelligence on China’s nuclear production capabilities.Ho was sentenced last year to a two-year prison term.

Court records show Ho recruited Guey in 2013 to travel to the People’s Republic of China and, on China’s dime, speak at a “technological exchange” at which he disclosed three reports on nuclear safety analysis. He was paid $15,500, which he has since forfeited to the federal government, according to statements in court.

The reports he provided were not classified but fell under the regulatory auspices of a law that bars certain countries considered nuclear bad actors, including China, from gleaning without permission of the federal government.