CEO of the Tennessee Valley Authority: Who Is Bill Johnson?

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Bill Johnson has been president and chief executive officer of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) since November 2012. Founded in 1933 as part of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal to bring electricity to the impoverished Tennessee Valley region, TVA is the nation’s largest public utility. Considered a radical intervention by the government into the energy industry at the time, TVA has since earned such strong popularity that President Obama's recently announced plan to privatize it provoked sharp criticism from southern Republicans, who are usually eager supporters of privatization.


Born January 9, 1954, William Dean Johnson attended Pennsylvania State University, where he played football as an offensive lineman, but did not earn a degree. After relocating to Durham, North Carolina, with his wife, who was serving her medical residency at Duke University Hospital, he earned a B.A. in History at Duke University and taught school for a year-and-a-half in Durham before realizing the career was not a match. Almost on a whim, Johnson decided to attend law school, earning a J.D. at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1982.


After law school. Johnson served as a law clerk to Judge J. Dickson Phillips, Jr. of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Entering private practice, Johnson rose to partner at the Raleigh office of Hunton & Williams, where he specialized in representing utility companies. He joined Carolina Power & Light, which was later renamed Progress Energy, in 1992, starting in the legal department and eventually working as group president for Energy Delivery, president and chief executive officer for subsidiary Progress Energy Service Company, and general counsel for Progress Energy Inc.


Johnson became president in 2005, and worked as chairman and CEO from 2007 to 2012, when the company was bought by Duke Energy. Although the Duke-Progress Energy merger agreement named Johnson CEO of the new combined company, the new corporate board, dominated by Duke Energy members, fired him less than an hour after the merger closed, allowing him to walk away with a $44 million severance payment for one hour's work. He had been paid $9.5 million by Progress in 2011.


Neither consistently a Democrat or a Republican, Johnson has made political contributions to both sides over the years, including donations of $4,000 to Sen. Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) in 2009, $1,250 to Sen. Kay Hagan (D-North Carolina) in 2008, $2,750 to Rep. Brad Miller (D-North Carolina) between 2001 and 2006, and $1,000 to President George W. Bush in 2003. By far his largest donations, however, have been to the Nuclear Energy Institute, a lobbying group for utilities that own nuclear plants, to which he has donated $23,500 over the years.

-Matt Bewig


To Learn More:

Official Biography

New CEO Bill Johnson Takes Rocky Path to TVA Job (by Josh Flory, Knoxville Biz)

Bill Johnson: Leading an Energy Powerhouse (by John Downey, Charlotte Business Journal)

Republican Socialists Fight Obama Plan to Privatize TVA (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


Patrick Conley 5 years ago
The TVA decision to invest in further development of nuclear power in light of the following facts: 1. The fossil fuel energy required to produce a plant and process uranium neutralizes the actual energy production of the plant. 2. Power plant production is prohibitively expensive and cannot survive on the free market 3. No long term means of waste disposal means the real cost of nuclear energy will be incalculable over millions of years. 4. Inadequate engineering and inability to predict natural catastrophes such as Fukushima make it a very dangerous power source for the entire U.S. Given the coastal location of nuclear power plants and global warming Fukushimas here are almost a certainty. 5. Plants are so expensive to maintain that safety regulations are resisted bringing ever closer the possibility of a meltdown resulting in cancer and permanent damage to DNA, i.e, getting rid of Jaczko who saw the necessity of greater safety requirements. 6. CEOS have little real concern about population well being as long as they are receiving significant compensation. Justification for nuclear converts in reality to justification for salary. 7. Solar is the life source on the planet and there is plenty of it. After all you wouldn't be here if you didn't eat sun raised veggies or beef fed by plants. It's safe and the technology is developing rapidly. 8. We could actually be asked to sacrifice to avoid more energy and the reality is that the American people are using less energy per capita. 9. The tragedy of Fukushima and despite distortions to the contrary, Fukushima will cost millions of lives just as according to the New York Academy of Science Chernobyl has cost more than 970 thousand lives in terms of long term radiation exposure including 100,000 workers who shut Chernobyl down. 10. It is sheer, utter delusion to think that nuclear power has a future. Merkle, the head of Germany has rapidly moved to end their nuclear power program as has Italy and Switzerland --an indication of a glimmer of intelligence. 11. Decommissioning a plant is at least as expensive as starting one up. In light of these facts, it is MADNESS TO CONTINUE BUILDING NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS. END THEM AND PAY THE PRICE TO DECOMMISSION. THAT WOULD BE SANE WOULDN'T iT?

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