Nation’s largest public utility falls further behind on transparency, accountability
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Frustrated with the Tennessee Valley Authority’s continued lack of transparency and new efforts to avoid meaningful public input, groups that previously raised concerns about TVA’s accountability are boycotting today’s new “listening session” component of TVA’s quarterly board meeting, taking place one day prior to the board meeting. Participating groups and individuals include Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Conservatives for Energy Freedom, the NAACP, Pearl Walker with the Memphis Coalition of Concerned Citizens, and Energy Alabama.
With the final details published with less than one week’s notice, TVA announced a listening session to be held the day before the scheduled board meeting to begin at 2:30 in the afternoon — in the middle of a workday and inconvenient for many concerned residents to reach in the relatively remote town of Tupelo, MS. Furthermore, it was just made public that the listening session will not be web streamed, shielding the voices of concerned citizens from the media and those not able to attend, while TVA itself and many large stakeholders will have ample airtime during the full board meeting the next day. Board members are not expected to engage in meaningful discourse with concerned members of the public during this listening session. These recently announced decisions contradict requests made in a letter from the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy when TVA solicited input on the format of the public input portion of board meetings. The letter is available upon request.
Rather than increase transparency and public participation, as TVA claimed was the goal when moving the listening session to a separate day, these changes only serve to further distance the TVA Board of Directors from the public it is meant to serve. Dr. Stephen A. Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, issued this statement in response to TVA’s last minute announcement:
“This so-called ‘listening session’ has gone from bad to worse and is further evidence that TVA is continuing to operate in a non public-power mode, with worsening anti-democratic, closed-door behavior. We had hoped that the modifications to the listening sessions would create more interaction and communication with board members and leadership, but this timing and structure is an attempt to further hinder the conversation as opposed to broadening it. This is just a continuation of the arrogant leadership style that includes cost-shifting from industry onto the backs of residential and small business customers, regressive fixed fee hikes, luxury jets and helicopters, and refusal to fully respond to Freedom of Information Act requests.”