Biden nominates utility’s ex-board chair to rejoin panel
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — President Joe Biden has nominated the former board chairman of the nation’s largest public utility to rejoin the panel.
Huntsville, Alabama attorney Joe Ritch is Biden’s pick to return to the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Ritch left the federal utility’s board in 2017 after a Republican-controlled Senate failed the previous year to confirm former President Barack Obama’s reappointment of Ritch and two others. Obama nominated Ritch to the board in 2012. The Senate confirmed him in 2013 and the board voted to make him chairman in 2014.
The nine-member board currently has four vacancies, not counting two sitting members who are still serving after their terms expired in May. The seats come with five-year terms, but when a board member’s term expires, that person can keep serving until end of the current congressional session, typically in December, or until their successors take office, whatever comes first.
Ritch would fill a vacant seat with a term expiring in May 2025.
Board member Beth Harwell’s run for U.S. House this election cycle could add more uncertainty if she wins.
Ritch now joins five other Biden board picks awaiting Senate confirmation. Three of them were nominated in April 2021.
The other two — Lyon County, Kentucky Judge Executive Adam Wade White and Bill Renick, a former Ashland, Mississippi mayor and state lawmaker — were nominated in June.
Once confirmed, the nominees would give Biden a majority that could reshape the federal utility, which now features only board members appointed by former President Donald Trump.
Environmental advocates have urged the new Democrat-appointed board members, once installed, to move more quickly in transitioning to 100% carbon-free electricity, citing the Biden administration’s goal of a carbon-pollution-free energy sector by 2035.
TVA has set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2035, compared to 2005 levels. The utility has its own aspirational goal of net zero emissions by 2050.
TVA provides electricity for 153 local power companies serving 10 million people in Tennessee and parts of six surrounding states, in addition to large industrial customers and federal operations.