TVA Board Vacancies Raise Possibility of Coal-Policy Shift – by Cameron McWhirter (Wall Street Journal – January 17, 2017)

Environmental groups worry Trump appointees will slow authority’s move away from the fossil fuel

President-elect Donald Trump is poised to bring in new leadership to the Tennessee Valley Authority, prompting concerns that the nation’s largest public power company could be in for a strategy shift.

After Mr. Trump won, the renomination of three of the utility’s board members, including its chairman, stalled in the Senate confirmation process and their terms expired on Jan. 2. The three Obama-appointed board members had been proponents of moving the utility away from coal-fired power to other energy sources such as natural gas and nuclear.

Joe Ritch, a lawyer from Huntsville, Ala., who had been on the board since 2013 and chairman since 2014, said he was surprised by the Senate’s reluctance to reconfirm him and two other board members, and suspected new appointees could be much more pro-coal.

Mr. Ritch said he believed Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, Mr. Trump’s pick for attorney general and a longtime ally of coal interests in his home state, blocked their re-confirmations. Mr. Sessions is a member of the Senate committee where the renominations of Obama’s board appointees stalled.

Mr. Sessions had “expressed his unhappiness” over the closure of two TVA coal plants in Alabama in recent years, said Mr. Ritch, the utility’s outgoing chairman. Mr. Sessions’s staff didn’t respond to requests for comment.

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