TVA Dragged Through its Own Sludge

The Tennessee Valley Authority’s wreckless handling of crisis communications following its Christmas-time sludge spill in the eastern end of the state continues to haunt the utility and call its leadership into question. This is the latest of many apparent sins and comes at an unfortunate time for the management as democrats, tuned in to environmental issues more than ever, have increased their hold on the House and Senate and now control the White House, too.

Immediately following the disaster that has ruined many lives and livelihoods, “Executive Rewind” (TVA Management Took a Holiday) noted the utter lack of senior management’s availability and presence on location to work with residents, clean-up teams and the news media.

TVA’s reluctance to communicate continues and it is getting a deserved drubbing in the press. Case in point, The Tennessean’s Brad Schrade’s lengthy and compelling indictment of the authority in a January 25th article entitled “TVA spill unleashes flood of questions.”

Schrade reports that the incident raises a host of “uwanted questions” for the Authority and quotes a democratic congressman who skewers TVA management for their hubris:

“In TVA’s 70-year history they’ve gone from a yardstick for the world to a laughingstock with the nuclear problems (in the 1970s) to a run-of-the-mill, get-by-with-what-you-can utility,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, a Democrat from Nashville. “I told (TVA Chief Executive) Tom Kilgore and (TVA Chairman) Bill Sansom when they came up (to Washington) that 2008 was a disastrous year for TVA.

“They demanded whopping rate increases from every customer. Paid the top executives fat bonuses. Then virtually on Christmas Eve poured toxic sludge on a lot of good, hard-working Tennesseans and one of our most beautiful valleys. Oh, sure they’re apologetic but it’s tragic and disappointing that we don’t have a first-rate, top-flight utility in the valley.”

Rep. Jim Cooper, (Dem-Ten)

While TVA is defended in the article by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, it’s Cooper’s party that holds the cards today, and will likely make the Authority pay for its arrogance and poor communication policies.

The fact that a new sheriff is in charge in Washington, DC, should be a reason enough for TVA to change the way it deals with its customers by creating a new environment of access to and through the news media.

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