(WHNT) — Several community groups are speaking out against the Tennessee Valley Authority and calling for the return of ‘public comment sessions’ to its board’s quarterly meetings.
These organizations claim the change in public input came after members in the community expressed dissatisfaction with the power company at these board meetings. They say these community members were primarily disadvantaged and lived in underfunded communities.
The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Sowing Justice, Center for Biological Diversity, Appalachian Voices, Energy Alabama, and Sunrise Tennessee are banding together to try to change this protocol.
Advocates say they want more public engagement from TVA and right now, they’re not getting it.
Stephen Smith, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy Executive Director, says “Our fear is – TVA is amazing at shape-shifting just a little bit when you see a change in administration. They act like they’re interested in public participation. They talk a good game, but they don’t actually institute the structural changes. This is a very blatant one – either they’re going to let people into the day-of board meetings and allow us to address the board directly or they’re not.”
News 19 reached out to the TVA about these groups’ concerns and received more information about the change and why the TVA says it happened.
A spokesman says it was about five years ago when several groups asked them to change the “listening session” format to provide the board more time to consider comments made by community members. The board agreed and moved the session to the day before its quarterly meeting.
Since then, the TVA says they have found these sessions make it easier for the public to attend and give the board more time to consider the comments. The spokesman adds that TVA is committed to transparency and that if you cannot attend a listening session – you can contact them via phone, email, or by letter.
Scott Fiedler, Tennessee Valley Authority Spokesperson, says “We serve 10 million people of the Tennessee Valley, so we’ve got to take everybody’s input – large or small. In some cases, like this, it sounds like one of those situations where we’re not going to make everybody happy…but at TVA, our focus is to gather public input to guide our decisions. We created this system and it’s working very well.”