STATEMENT OF SEN. JEFF SESSIONS
NOMINATIONS BEFORE THE COMMITTEE
ON ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS
MARCH 14, 1997

I would like to thank the chairman of this committee, Senator Chafee for holding this hearing today to consider the nomination of the Johnny Hayes as a director of the Tennessee Valley Authority and Judith Espinosa and Michael Rappoport to be members of the Board of Trustees for the Morris K. Udall scholarship and Excellence in National Environmental Policy Foundation.

Over seventy years ago Congress, along with Franklin Delano Roosevelt passed the Tennessee Valley Act as part of the "New Deal" to help bring the Tennessee Valley out of the depression. The preamble to the original Act states that TVA's purpose is "to improve the navigability and to provide for the flood control of the Tennessee River; to provide for reforestation and the proper use of marginal lands in the Tennessee Valley: to provide for the agricultural and industrial development of said valley; (and) to provide for the national defense by the creation of a corporation for the operation of Government properties at and near Muscle Shoals in the State of Alabama."

The need, justification and intent of the original act still holds true today.

I am concerned about the recent reports of the Tennessee Valley Authority's plans for privatization and the potential for the original intent of the Act to be abandoned.

The Tennessee Valley Authority does much more than produce efficient, economical power for the residents of the Tennessee Valley over seven states - it is responsible for flood and river control and is charged with managing an economic development program which has helped to revitalize the region. Within these activities, I believe there is a necessary and justified role for the Federal government.

The Tennessee Valley Authority has successfully managed the rivers and government land within the Valley since 1933 and has gained valuable expertise in performing these functions. If the Tennessee Valley Authority stops fulfilling this need, who will?

The flood control and the basic land management TVA has dutifully performed over the years is a legitimate, worthwhile, and indeed, essential function of the Federal government -- which goes to say that if the Tennessee Valley Authority stops this activity, than another government agency will be charged with taking over the task -- retaining the costs to the government and unnecessarily disrupting the lives of those 3500 Alabamians who work for the TVA -- all while losing the experience and efficiency the Tennessee Valley Authority has amassed over the years.

The Environmental Research Center in Muscle Shoals, Alabama employees over 230 people and engages in research on such things as air and water quality. It is, in fact, one of the largest research centers in the country conducting this type of research. Despite talk about privatizing the facility, the work that is done there is so valuable that the directors of the TVA have been reluctant to let outside parties, interested in taking over the Research Center, examine the research records for fear of losing the valuable assets that the Center has collected through its work. Surely, the Directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority can develop a plan to make the Environmental Research Center more self-sufficient by fostering an environment which will encourage private research contracts while also allowing the Center to fill the needs of the TVA.

I understand the TVA has established a nineteen member task force to examine what impact the privatizing of non-power TVA functions would have on the Valley. I look forward to reviewing the results of that study when it is made available in September. I look forward to hearing the testimony of Mr. Hayes and his plans for the Tennessee Valley Authority.