New TVA chair hopes to keep trajectory as Trump fills slots

Friday, January 27, 2017, Vol. 41, No. 4

NASHVILLE (AP) — The new Tennessee Valley Authority board chairwoman says she hopes the federal utility will maintain its trajectory, including efforts to reduce airborne carbon pollution, with President Donald Trump having the chance to pick a new board majority by the spring.

Lynn Evans, the first woman and first African-American to chair the board, told reporters in a conference call Friday that three of nine TVA board slots are currently vacant, and her term and another member's term expire in May. Trump will choose nominees for those five slots, and the U.S. Senate will confirm them.

Evans said she can't speculate whether direction from a starkly different administration in Washington will mean more changes for the utility, which provides electricity to more than 9 million people in seven southeastern states. An appointee of President Barack Obama, she was sworn in in January 2013.

TVA has said it's on track to cut its carbon emissions by 60 percent by 2020, compared with 2005 levels. By the end of 2018, TVA will have retired five of its original 11 coal-fired power plants, TVA spokesman Scott Brooks said.

Trump has promised to roll back Obama's regulatory efforts to stem global warming by capping carbon emissions from power plants burning what the new president called "clean, beautiful coal" on Thursday. Trump also promised to bring back jobs to the beleaguered coal mining industry, despite economic forecasts that say a big recovery for coal is highly unlikely amid competition from low-priced natural gas.

During the campaign, Trump also shrugged off the extensive scientific evidence that the planet is warming and man-made carbon emissions are to blame, at one point claiming that global warming is a hoax created by the Chinese.

Evans said she's particularly excited about plans to replace TVA's coal-fired Allen Fossil Plant in Memphis by the end of 2018 with natural gas, reducing that plant's carbon emissions by 60 percent.

"We're on a trajectory, and my hope is that trajectory will still be able to be maintained going forward," Evans said.