Carper Statement for the EPW Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee Hearing on Tennessee Valley Authority Nominations
May 19 2020
“Mr. Chairman, today, we are considering three nominations for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). As the nation’s largest public power system, TVA provides power to more than 9 million households across seven southern states. TVA is also tasked with providing river and land management along the Tennessee River and supporting economic development in the Tennessee Valley.
“Being a federal corporation means having higher responsibilities—at the very least, it means that the American people and Congress expect the very best. Each of the three nominees before us today, if confirmed, will have a role and a responsibility to ensure TVA lives up to the public’s trust and expectations.
“Over the past decade, TVA has retired its older, dirtier coal plants, and invested billions in clean energy and energy efficiency technologies. In 2010, 44 percent of TVA’s electricity generation came from coal-fired power plants. Today, TVA only receives 19 percent of its energy from coal. These investments in cleaner energy have resulted in cleaner air and new economic opportunities for the people of the Tennessee Valley and surrounding areas.
“I applaud TVA’s clean energy investments, but more can and must be done to meet our country’s clean air and climate goals. Almost 50 percent of TVA’s power – 45 percent – still comes from fossil-fuel sources, and only three percent of TVA’s power comes from renewable sources that are not hydropower. The decisions TVA makes about power generation today will have a real impact on our nation’s ability to address climate change in the future. It will also affect the health and economic well-being of the people living in the Tennessee Valley for decades to come. That brings more than a little gravity to the nominations before us today.
“In creating the nine Board of Directors for TVA, Congress was very clear that each board member shall confirm support for the missions of TVA, which includes being “a national leader in technological innovation, low-cost power, and environmental stewardship.” In today’s hearing, I want to hear how Dr. Harwell and Dr. Noland, if confirmed, will support TVA’s missions and will continue to support TVA’s investments for a cleaner and better future.
“In meeting its clean air, climate and energy goals, TVA must always make public health and the safety of its customers, its neighbors and its workers a top priority. The coal-ash spill and clean up at the Kingston Fossil Power Plant and reports of a chilled work environment at some of its nuclear power plants are clear examples of times when TVA appeared to forget its mission and its way.
“As I mentioned before, TVA must always be held to the highest standard, especially when it comes to public health and safety. That means having board members willing to do what is right, not what is easy or most expedient. And, that is why TVA must have a strong and independent Inspector General.
“If confirmed, Ms. Crytzer will serve as one of the first lines of defense against fraud, waste, abuse, mismanagement and misconduct across TVA. Over the past several months, the president has unceremoniously removed, reassigned or undermined highly regarded Inspectors General who did not display loyalty or who dared to criticize what they viewed as a flawed or failed response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It has become abundantly clear that Congress needs to speak up and do a better job supporting our Inspectors General when this president – or any president – takes retaliatory actions against the independent watchdogs responsible for identifying failures, waste, fraud, and abuse across the federal government. Today, I want to hear that Ms. Crytzer can provide assurance to the Committee that she will be able to serve as TVA Inspector General with the kind of political independence that this important role requires.
“Finally, I would be remiss not to remind my colleagues that one-third of the Inspector General positions that are confirmed by the Senate either remain vacant or without permanent leadership. Now that we at work in Washington in the midst of this pandemic, I believe the Senate should make a top priority the vetting of those IG nominees we have received, especially those who would be involved with oversight of the coronavirus response.
“I want to thank the witnesses for joining us here today and for your willingness to serve our country in these roles. We look forward to hearing your testimony. Again, welcome. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”