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Co-chairmen’s views differ on TVA

By Eric Fleischauer· 340-2435

A Thursday meeting between the newly elected co-chairmen of the Congressional Tennessee Valley Authority Caucus suggested they have conflicting views on how TVA should balance economic development and environmental concerns.

U.S. Rep. Bud Cramer, D-Huntsville, is critical of the TVA board for what he sees as its failure to give due weight to the economic development needs of the Tennessee Valley.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., saves his harshest criticism for TVA’s failure to adequately protect the environment.

Cramer said the meeting confirmed that the two men were “very much” approaching the TVA from different directions.

A likely point of conflict will be Cramer’s insistence that the TVA revise its recent decision to ban sales of its 293,000 acres of protected shoreline to private entities.

“I haven’t had a chance to put the issue on the table for (Alexander),” Cramer said. “Once he understands the issue, we hopefully will find (our views) don’t have to be in conflict with one another.”

Environmental issues

Alexander is a strong supporter of environmental issues. Most of his battles with TVA have involved air pollution carried eastward — including from Alabama power plants — to East Tennessee and the Smoky Mountains. He has expressed support for the reopening of Browns Ferry Unit 1 nuclear plant because it would reduce TVA’s reliance upon coal plants.

Cramer said he hopes that his economic development perspective and Alexander’s environmental one are not mutually exclusive.

“I think they’re not necessarily competing issues,” he said. “I don’t see that we have to abandon one to have the other.”

Cramer said he believes the TVA’s New Deal roots require its primary focus to be on economic development. Area environmental groups, including Moulton-based Wild South, say the TVA’s decision to ban land sales shows sensitivity to the environment and honors the desires of most Tennessee Valley residents.

Cramer said he plans to travel to Knoxville in late February to meet with TVA officials on its land use policy and other issues. He and Alexander agreed they will have TVA’s new leadership come to Washington to meet with the entire caucus sometime after that.

Congress last year restructured the TVA into a nine-member board of directors with a chief executive officer.

“We’re going to let members go through an informal briefing,” Cramer said. “It’s our opportunity to sound off about some issues that we haven’t had a chance to sound off about.”

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