Hearings - Testimony
 
Full Committee Hearing
An Informational Hearing on Pending Nominations
Wednesday, February 8, 2006
 
Donald DePriest
Nominated to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority

Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee. There is probably no greater honor than to be asked by the President to serve the Nation, and as President Bush’s nominee as a Director of the Tennessee Valley Authority, I am thankful for the opportunity to serve. Mississippi’s two marvelous Senators, Thad Cochran and Trent Lott, have been unwavering in their support and encouragement, and I will be forever grateful to them. Congressmen Wicker and Pickering, as well as Governor Barbour, have offered their assistance and advice. It is generous of you, Mr. Chairman, and members of the Committee, to take the time to so promptly address our nominations. I appreciate your kindness.

 

TVA has been important to me for my entire life. I can remember the day at age six electricity was first turned on at our house in the country near Dyer, Tennessee. The establishment of this great institution transformed an impoverished region into a flourishing and wonderful part of the world. I will do my part, if confirmed, to see that the Tennessee Valley Authority continues its mission in an ever improving way.

I have lived in Columbus, Mississippi, since 1963. I moved there to open an industry that continues to operate today, and which depends on reliable, low-cost electric power provided by Columbus Light & Water, a TVA distributor. I came to Mississippi from Tennessee, where I am the seventh generation of my family in the state. Gibson County Electric Membership Co-Operative, now Gibson Electric, was formed and chaired by my uncle, Charles Garner, for forty years. So I have a legacy to fulfill in continuing and improving TVA’s service.

The Tennessee Valley Authority is the largest power generator in the nation, and must continue to produce large quantities of low-cost, reliable and clean power. It is a mammoth enterprise that requires prudent management and financial integrity. It has a unique capacity to control its own rates and funding sources, and operates primarily like a private enterprise with a public purpose. In expanding the Board of Directors and creating the Chief Executive Officer, Congress has restructured TVA to meet the challenges of a growing organization in the power generation industry. We should keep in mind that TVA is not just an enterprise, but a leader in electric power, and it carries with its power generation mission the important task of aiding economic development in the TVA area. This arm of TVA is critical to America’s future. This role means that TVA must accommodate shifting trends for this industry, promote employment of citizens within its area, advance technological development, secure energy sources, and protect national security.

My experience in building and developing industries and new technologies should contribute to the decision to advance the objectives of TVA. I was a board member and Chairman of one of TVA’s distributors in Columbus, Mississippi, during the turbulent oil and energy crisis of the 70's. This experience should be helpful in my role on the Board of TVA.

I must note that the other nominees to the newly expanded board of TVA are quality, thoughtful people of diversified skills that will bring depth of experience and a variety of viewpoints to the organization, which is vital to making decisions that affect thousands of employees, 158 distributors, and millions of users/customers. The board must deal with issues and opportunities associated with types of power generation and energy sources, financial planning, budgeting and execution regarding these issues on a giant scale. Management of appropriate debt levels commensurate with making appropriate power rates and capital expenditures, human resources, environmental matters, land use, legal challenges, service areas and distributor relations, finding a world-class CEO, corporate governance, megasites for industrial/economic development, and probably countless other challenges must be effectively solved. This requires the skillsets and experience gained in dealing with large and diverse organizations, and the new board must possess these skills and be prepared to act with precision. If confirmed, I will bring my own experience to bear in having formed, managed, and operated several companies of national and international scope in telecommunications, manufacturing, and broadcasting. These include having established one of the two original cellular carriers in all the TVA region’s major markets.

To summarize my thoughts about TVA’s future and its challenges:

1. TVA must continue to produce large amounts of low cost, reliable, and clean power while positioning itself as a technology leader in these areas. TVA should maintain excess emergency generating capacity, and must have back-up plans at all times to insure there is never a service interruption.

 

2. The Tennessee Valley Authority is in a unique position with its form of organization/governance, rate making, and power generating to have the highest credit rating. TVA must keep this rating by being consistent with proper debt levels and capital expense.

3. TVA should maintain the best of relations with all of its people (publics). This includes distributors, industrial customers, trade groups, all levels of government, economic development organizations, employees/labor unions, and others.

4. The organization must take the lead in encouraging energy conservation at all levels.

5. TVA must maintain/take the lead in nuclear power generation, coal gasification (including work on carbon recapture) and other technologies that produce clean power.

6. The management of the Tennessee River system must be constantly revisited and strategic plans kept in place and implemented for this valuable economic and recreational resource.

7. The highest standards of corporate governance should consistently be maintained, and the professional standards of the organization, from top to bottom, must set the mark for confidence for public or private companies.

8. The board must always keep in mind that the people own this organization, and that the public good prevails. The conduct of the business of TVA must be performed with this as the guiding principle.

Mr. Chairman, I thank you and all members of this Committee for your work and kind consideration in this confirmation process, and, if I am confirmed, I pledge to fulfill the duties of this board position in a vigorous and energetic way, always keeping first in my mind the needs of TVA’s owners.

 

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