I hear a buzz going to push President Obama to re-nominate Dr. Marilyn Brown. The TFP says Corker and Alexander are afraid of her. Whoa!

Corker and Alexander simply want to keep Sansom as chairman, and they don't want another smart woman on the board to take over the chairmanship. (link...)

and even more in your face...

Is it because Brown, with two years of board experience, is now becoming a too-strong member of the board, suggesting a vision Alexander and Sansom aren't comfortable with. (link...)

Pam Strickland's picture

They are afraid of smart

They are afraid of smart women. Just like people were afraid of Joycelyn Elders when she was Surgeon General. And now they are afraid of Elizabeth Warren they've always been afraid of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Smart women make not so smart men squirm.

fischbobber's picture

Not so smart men

Who are the not so smart men?

TVA has been going down the wrong path since Marvin Runyon. I'd like to say the coal ash disaster was some unbelievable, egregious, anomaly, but the reality is that is was a predictable outcome of moving away from TVA's mandate. The men I know at TVA are pissed about the coal ash spill because ash is a commodity, if the iron is processed out of it, instead of a hazardous waste. The women I know at TVA are all Obama haters who blame the evil liberals for all the world's problems.

I don't believe that Bill Sansom is the evil core of all TVA's problems. Nor do I believe he is the puppet he is being portrayed as. Nor do I believe he is leading the campaign to keep Dr. Brown from the TVA board. I would prefer some sort of solid evidence before being asked to carry a torch and join the witch hunt.

I don't believe that TVA should be run as a business, indeed, I would argue that an intrinsic part of its mandate would suggest that it be run solely for the public good and that board members and upper level managers should be recruited with that in mind and that perhaps people in the utility field that had personal gain high on their list of job priorities might not be particularly suited to service with TVA. Just my two cents. Bill Sansom meets that criteria, by the way.

I don't think this is a woman thing. I think its an ideology thing.

Rachel's picture

The women I know at TVA are

The women I know at TVA are all Obama haters who blame the evil liberals for all the world's problems.

You know the wrong women. I worked at TVA for 14 years and the women I knew would not (generally speaking) fit this definition at all.

fischbobber's picture

Thank you

My point exactly. When we go lumping people together by gender, race, religion, etc. and assume all viewpoints of any particular group are shared unilaterally, it just makes us all look stupid.

Actually it's woman. And when I attempted to talk TVA policy by starting with its charter and five part mandate, she didn't want to continue the discussion. She'd been there two years so she got to be the expert, don't you see. I pissed her off when I told her that historical fact was not a part of the "opinion" she was "graciously" allowing me to have and that economic development, flood control, recreation, navigation, and electrical generation were and still are TVA's mission. I don't give a damn about how other utilities do things because TVA's mandate is unique from other utilities.

And the man happens to be a bright engineer who happens to recognize the untapped potential for the region TVA has should it be allowed to move back to its legal mandate.

There are lots of people at TVA though and they have lots of opinions.

bizgrrl's picture

Backstepping a little there.

Backstepping a little there. Why not admit you were wrong. You're also probably wrong about "the men" (man) you know at TVA. The "woman" as an employee of TVA backed off talking about TVA's charter, etc. with someone who was/is not an employee of TVA. Maybe she was being polite. I'm assuming she wasn't a "bright engineer...."?

fischbobber's picture

I used two specific people

It's called allegory. The two people I used really exist. I disagree with the woman and agree with the man. Had their opinions been reversed I would have agreed with the woman and disagreed with the man. The point was prejudice clouds judgement.

I'm pretty sure about TVA's historical mandate, but if indeed they have changed it and the fundamental structure of TVA's mission I'll be happy to admit my error.

Rachel's picture

You are correct about TVA's

You are correct about TVA's historical mandate, and no it hasn't changed. TVA is, by the TVA Act, a regional development agency, not a utility.

However, TVA has been de-emphasizing this for years, so that now it's pretty much ignored. It's no wonder your employee with two years experience didn't know about it.

fischbobber's picture

Thank you once again.

I know a radical right wing dude, whom I like despite the fact that he's wrong about virtually everything, who was in the nuclear division at TVA who was shocked that I was familiar with the mandate. I like the less experienced employee, but I have an issue with folks drawing unemployment and living on food stamps and prayers screaming about our evil government. No one knows it all, but some folks only see what they want to see and resent the fact that there is a bigger picture. I'm happy that she landed on her feet at TVA. I hope she sees a need to pay it forward.

What people fear about Dr. Brown is that she may look at the mandate and mission and say, "Hey, This was a good idea that worked for years until Reagan and the privatizers tried to take it apart." If the agency were to get back to basics, and perform its function, its still in a position to do great good. It's still the world model, it's just losing ground quickly.

And whether we on the progressive end of the spectrum like it or not, Bill Sansom is one of the best logistics guys in the world and his service at TVA is public service. If Washington can get the board right, and they work together, TVA, and our region can fix what's broken and build to the future. It just takes will and leadership.

Rachel's picture

What people fear about Dr.

What people fear about Dr. Brown is that she may look at the mandate and mission and say, "Hey, This was a good idea that worked for years until Reagan and the privatizers tried to take it apart." If the agency were to get back to basics, and perform its function, its still in a position to do great good. It's still the world model, it's just losing ground quickly.

That's not going to happen and here's why: Craven Crowell decided that TVA would stop taking Federal funding. It was only 2% of the budget, but it paid for things like economic development, water quality work beyond meeting permits, and other environmental and planning-related work (did you know that TVA once had a staff of planners, as well as a Chief Economist? And not 60 years ago either).

The folks who run the Power side aren't interested in paying for that stuff out of ratepayer fees and so it's been dying a slow death ever since the Federal $$ stopped coming.

I don't see that dynamic changing no matter who's on the board.

That said, the board should be balanced, Dr. Brown was a qualified and capable board member, and Alexander and Corker should be ashamed of themselves for blocking her reappointment.

fischbobber's picture

Being right

You're exactly right up to a point. While Crowell ditched the funding he didn't get rid of the oversight. As it stands, TVA doesn't have the power to run its own affairs.

I won't go into what I know beyond this, if we don't get the citizens of the valley informed and involved, TVA as we know it will be gone in our lifetime. Congress still has the final say over TVAs yearly activities and until the citizens of the valley stand up and demand both autonomy and accountability TVA is nothing more than a monolith.

I agree that Dr. Brown should be appointed to the board, but I see a slow instrument to beneficial change a far superior state to that of no change at all.

Now is the time to look hard at TVA.

This is a new beginning.

barkers's picture

funding and oversight

Oh, but getting TVA off the budget effectively ended any congressional oversight. In Congress, if it ain't on the budget, it ain't on the radar, and TVA has been running its operations for longer than a decade without anybody in Washington paying attention. California Rep. Barbara Boxer, chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (which nominally has oversight of TVA) essentially admitted as much during the committee's hearings on the ash spill.

In an op-ed piece I wrote for the Wall Street Journal in 2009, I argued that TVA's non-power programs be returned to the federal budget, in part so that Congress would resume taking some sort of interest in what TVA is doing: (link...)

Rachel's picture

In an op-ed piece I wrote for

In an op-ed piece I wrote for the Wall Street Journal in 2009, I argued that TVA's non-power programs be returned to the federal budget, in part so that Congress would resume taking some sort of interest in what TVA is doing

From your pen to God's ears. Craven Crowell did a lot of damage when he decided the agency should stop asking for Federal $$$.

I got to observe it close up and personal as the spouse came home every day for years more and more frustrated that the water quality program was being killed by inches.

Treehouse's picture

How do we help?

I'm part of the "eco-community" and want to know how to get this information out more broadly and support this nomination and appointment.

R. Neal's picture

Thanks for the links. Why is

Thanks for the links. Why is the KNS silent on this?

From the second column, She has written hundreds of publications, including the 2010 paper "Energy Efficiency in the South," which charts a promising path for the South: $40 billion in energy savings and nearly 400,000 jobs created.

So is TVA worried that energy efficiency and savings will hurt their bottom line? I honestly think that's the case. They are still operating in the 1930's mode of promoting energy consumption and have no interest in conservation or efficiency other than programs like energy audits for appearances.

WhitesCreek's picture

It's more than silence...

The editors at TFP are taking a stand. That's either refreshingly radical or radically refreshing. I thank them for supporting our future.

But yeah...Why hasn't every one of the big papers in TN called them out. This is too transparent to let lie, even for the KNS I would think.

jbr's picture

This would be the sort of

This would be the sort of news by which the NS could strengthen their relevance. By digging exhaustively, and not be tentative with their story. It would take guts, and would earn respect.
This is one of the type of stories on which local papers can determine their survival. Some of the TVA board, some senators, etc. might snub them at cocktail parties, but the people in the community will embrace them. And pay to read their paper in print and/or online.

fischbobber's picture

Government vs. Business

This is the kind of crap that happens when you try to run government like a business. Dissension and innovation are quashed and maintaining one's status quo while passing the buck and playing slight- of- hand are the daily orders of business.

WhitesCreek's picture

I don't think this is running

I don't think this is running government like a business, I think it's running government like a good old boy's club with no girls allowed...Especially if they're really smart.

Rachel's picture

Hmmm. Scott Barker used to

Hmmm. Scott Barker used to cover TVA for the KNS. Their TVA coverage used to be really good. Now they can't even cover a big story like Alexander & Corker blocking the appt of a smart, qualified woman who's already served 2 years on the board because (take her choice): a) she's too smart, b) she's female, 3) they don't like her politics and background.

I'm going with 3 myself, with a touch of 2. But I'd sure like to see the KNS go after this. It's embarrassing that the TFP does such a better job of covering TVA when its headquarters are in Knoxville.

redmondkr's picture

One of my dearest friends is

One of my dearest friends is a corporate lawyer for TVA. She brought me a beautiful coffee cup from her last trip to Washington emblazoned with the logo, "Friends don't let friends vote Republican".

WhitesCreek's picture

I seem to remember the TVA

I seem to remember the TVA charter being revamped during the Bush remake to a new part time board. Anybody know?

Pam Strickland's picture

Yeah, White's Creek. The TVA

Yeah, White's Creek. The TVA Board is part time now instead of full time.

barkers's picture

tva board

The TVA board is much different now.

In the old days, a three-member board set policy and the board chairman basically managed TVA's day-to-day operations. Under the new structure, which mimics that of private-sector corporations, a part-time board sets policy and a hired CEO manages operations.

TVA was headed toward unchartered territory because the Senate had not confirmed President Barack Obama's nominees. The outgoing board gave the CEO unprecedented powers should a quorum not be possible because the confirmations did not go through. The Senate finally did confirm enough board members to constitute a quorum, though with the obvious and puzzling omission of board member Marilyn Brown. The KNS editorial board is glad they confirmed most of the nominees -- it keeps the new CEO from running operations with no oversight -- but is disappointed Brown's re-nomination was brushed aside. She is highly qualified and has experience on the TVA board. And we said so in this editorial that for some reason White's Creek thinks (as expressed in another thread) is spineless: (link...)

Rachel, thanks for the kind words but I never actually covered TVA as a whole. I was the lead reporter on the coal ash spill and did some other reporting that led to the resignation of a board member, but I wasn't the TVA beat reporter.

WhitesCreek's picture

Sorry about that...

I was rather frustrated at the time in trying to get several eco warrior groups to step up and call the Senators out. After seeing the TFP accuse the Senators of, essentially, murder in the first paragraph, I didn't think they were hit hard enough in the KNS.

I do appreciate your work, Scott.

barkers's picture


Thanks, WhitesCreek. And I appreciate your advocacy on issues affecting Roane County (I grew up in Kingston and my parents still live there). You can criticize editorials all you want and it doesn't offend me. They are supposed to express our editorial board's opinion and spark debate, which by its nature means that others will not agree.

jbr's picture

"Spineless" seems like a

"Spineless" seems like a stronger term than "pretty wimpy piece"

But it is something that should have it's own titled, exhaustive article and not be buried with a few paragraphs in the end of an editorial with a title regarding something else.

R. Neal's picture

TVA wants to be a

TVA wants to be a private-sector company when it's convenient (executive pay, bonuses, oversight, etc.) and a government agency at other times when that's more convenient (sovereign immunity, law enforcement/police powers, etc.).

barkers's picture


Yes, TVA takes advantage of the gray areas depending upon what its leaders view as the best interests of the organization. For example, one of the things I found out during my reporting on TVA is that FEMA considered TVA a "federal corporation," not a "federal agency." So it did not require TVA to follow disaster response requirements that are mandated for federal agencies. There were no requirements for "federal corporations" to follow those requirements. Therefore, when the ash spill occurred, FEMA did not review TVA's response.

R. Neal's picture

P.S. Great moments in Barker

P.S. Great moments in Barker TVA reporting from the SKB archives:

8/4/2004 by SKB: Same data, two interpretations

Environmental groups issued a press release yesterday reporting they had analyzed EPA data on mercury pollution and found that most fish in America's lakes are unsafe for women and children to eat due to high levels of mercury.

Here's the Washington Post headline:

Most Fish From Lakes Is Too High In Mercury

Here's the Knoxville News Sentinel headline (which incidentally appeared on the front page):

Claims that some lake fish unhealthy to eat disputed by EPA

The two articles follow the same general slant of their headlines. So, how did two different newspapers review the same report on the same EPA data and come to such different conclusions?

Here's a clue from the Knoxville News Sentinel article:

The Tennessee Valley Authority has endorsed the [Bush] administration's proposal, which is similar to the approach credited with reducing acid rain.

"Cap-and-trade is a proven approach," said Jack Brellenthin, TVA's manager of environmental policy and strategy. Brellenthin said utilities would have an incentive to reduce emissions below the cap so they could sell credits to other utilities.

There you have it. The KNS is so far up TVA's ass they are tasting Brylcreem (with apologies to Junior Soprano). Cap-and-trade nonsense aside, you'd think the KNS would be more concerned about their local environment and its habitants who buy their newspaper.

OK, then.

(Emphasis added.)

8/4/2004 by SKB: Public apology

I was just looking at today's paper again and noticed that the front page story about mercury and the EPA that I blogged about below was written by ace KNS reporter and environmental crusader Scott Barker.

If there is anybody at KNS who gives a shit about the environment it is Scott Barker. He is responsible for great in-depth coverage on a number of environmental stories, such as the South Knox sinkhole dumping/contamination and the mess over at Whitherspoon just to name a couple.

Because of my bias and irrational hatred of all things TVA and Bush, and my haste to seize upon any opportunity to slam them, I failed to notice Scott's byline, and after reading it again note that I failed to credit what is basically a pretty well balanced article overall.

I guess they have to get all sides of the story (unlike us bloggers) and Scott cites the usual suspects at TVA. But if you read the article you'll note that he also got the other side of the story, including reference to a report saying the "cap-and-trade" nonsense won't achieve even Bush's goals for mercury pollution reductions. And I especially like the sly reference to EPA's assertion that most people eat fish from fish farms anyway, so what's the big deal.

So anyway, I apologize to Scott Barker for the Brylcreem crack. It was not directed at him personally, and I hope he realizes that. Truth is, I have no idea about the preferred hair care or other personal grooming products of Scott or anyone else at the KNS.

OK, then.

barkers's picture


Yeah, Randy, I've held a grudge for nearly a decade about the Brylcreem crack.

jmcnair's picture


I figured you for a Dapper Dan man.

barkers's picture


Unfortunately, I have little need these days for hair treatments.

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