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Proposed Regional Council Procedures and Guidelines

Background

The Council has been established as an advisory committee under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). This Act spells out a series of requirements that must be met for the establishment of the committee as well as procedural standards that must be met while the Council is in operation. A copy of the Federal Advisory Committee Act has been distributed to Council members.

One of the requirements of FACA is the preparation of a “charter” that spells out the purpose and scope of the advisory committee. This document has also been distributed.

Congress no longer provides an appropriation to fund TVA’s stewardship activities. Such activities must now be funded from TVA power sales. As a result, TVA recognizes the need to have greater public oversight of its stewardship activities. The mandate of the Council, as described in the Charter, is to provide TVA advice on its stewardship activities involving:

  • The operation of dams and reservoirs
  • Navigation
  • Flood control
  • Land management
  • Water Quality
  • Wildlife
  • Recreation.

The Charter provides a general structure but many of the operations of the Council remain to be worked out between TVA and the Council, or within the Council itself. This document has been developed by Chair Eddie Smith, in consultation with Jim Creighton, meeting and process consultant to the Council, as a first step towards establishing procedures and guidelines for the Council. It is a proposed document, subject to review and approval by the Council.

Obligations of TVA and the Council in Developing Recommendations

The Charter states that “the purpose of the Council is to provide advice only, and TVA retains sole responsibility for the management and operation of its stewardship activities and for all decisions regarding matters under consideration by the Council.” While this has to be stated up-front, it is equally true that TVA hopes to develop a relationship with the Council that leads to a substantive impact upon TVA decision making. TVA wants to work with the Council to develop a productive dialogue in which TVA learns from its interaction with the Council and uses insights and information from the Council in its decision making.

To accomplish this, TVA will accept the following obligations:

  • TVA will respond to each recommendation of the Council in writing.
  • If TVA adopts the recommendation of the Council, in part or in full, this written response will outline the actions TVA will take to implement the decision.
  • If TVA does not concur with the recommendations of the Council, TVA will describe its reasons for not adopting the recommendation and will provide this information to the Council in a timely manner. Except when decisions have time urgency, if TVA does not concur with a recommendation of the Council it will discuss its problems with the Council’s recommendation with the Council before it makes a final decision, and will work with the Council to determine whether it is possible to identify a course of action that addresses both the Council and TVA’s interests and concerns.

Developing Consensus

The reciprocal responsibility of the Council is to develop recommendations that have as high a degree of consensus as possible. If recommendations of the Council do not enjoy support of the full Council, this leaves TVA in a position where it must offend some constituencies no matter what decision it makes. From the Council’s perspective, recommendations that represent a consensus of the Council are more likely to influence TVA decision making than recommendations from a divided Council. So despite the fact that efforts to achieve consensus can take more time and be frustrating, the goal is consensus (even if it is not always attained).

Consensus does not mean that everybody is equally enthusiastic and supportive of a recommendation. Some people may be very supportive while others are merely willing to “go along” with the recommendation recognizing that it is likely to be the best they can get given the balance of interests. But it does mean that no significant interest continues to openly oppose the recommendation.

In practice, this means that -- rather than voting -- there will be an effort to develop a “sense of the meeting” in support of recommendations. The Chair will lead the discussion and listen carefully until he believes there might be a basis for consensus. He then states this “sense of the meeting,” and checks to see if it is acceptable to the group. Often this results in revisions or amendments until the recommendation is acceptable.

If it is impossible to reach agreement on the sense of a meeting, the Chair will ask the Council how to resolve the controversy. The Council could choose several courses of action. One possibility is to keep talking. Another is to have majority and minority reports. Still another is to obtain agreement on procedures for resolving the key factual issues that prevent resolution. Finally, the Council might decide to drop consideration of the issue until the next meeting, giving people a chance to think about the issue more. But, in effect, if the Council is unable to reach consensus on the recommendation, then it must reach consensus on how it will handle the issue.

Chair

The role of the Chair is:

  • To serve as meeting leader
  • To represent the Council in planning of agendas and all “process” decisions.
  • To work with TVA on the appointment of all subcommittees and coordinate the activities of subcommittees or other Council work groups
  • To represent the Council to the media (or designate someone from the Council to serve this role)
  • To be the spokesperson/advocate for Council recommendations to TVA management, the media, or the public.

Meeting and Process Planning

The Chair may choose to invite subcommittee chairs or other Council members to participate in meeting planning and other decision-making meetings about “process,” or, the Council may designate other members to participate in such planning and decision making.

Designated Federal Officer

Under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, TVA is required to designate one official as the “Designated Federal Officer” (DFO). The Charter specifies that the DFO will be the River Systems Operations and Environment Executive Vice President.

The DFO (or a designated substitute) shall ensure that proper public notice is given of each meeting of the Council, approve the proposed agenda for each meeting, attend each meeting, ensure that detailed minutes are taken at the meeting, ensure that the minutes and other Council records are available to Council members and the public, ensure that adequate facilities are provided for Council meetings and other needs, and make such reports about the operation of the Council as may be required or desirable.

Meeting and Process Consultant

After a competitive process, TVA has retained the services of James L. Creighton to serve as a meeting and process consultant to the Council. TVA’s goal in retaining a consultant is to ensure that the Council has the benefit of someone who has worked with a number of advisory groups and knows how to help the group be as productive as possible. Creighton will assist with meeting planning and preparation, and assist during meetings, as requested by the Chair.

Creighton is from the West Coast and has many years of experience facilitating meetings, workshops and conferences related to utility issues, water operations and natural resources management. A brief resume has been provided.

Council Members’ Role in Communicating with Constituencies

Many Council members were selected to represent particular constituencies or interests. Council members are expected not only to represent their constituencies but maintain communication with those constituencies to ensure they both represent the concerns of their constituency and communicate the Council’s thinking to their constituency. This communication might include periodic meetings, informal consultation with leaders of constituency or interest groups, or communication through organizational newsletters. TVA will provide administrative support, as appropriate, to support these efforts.

Informing and Involving the Public

In addition to the responsibility of individual Council members to communicate with the constituency they represent, the Council as a whole may wish to establish mechanisms for communicating with the general public. For example, the Council might want to issue news releases, periodic newsletters or interim reports, or hold public meetings or workshops on pending recommendations of the Council. TVA will provide administrative support, as appropriate, to support these efforts.

Meetings

The Charter specifies that there will be a minimum of two meetings a year. However, the Council may choose to meet more frequently. In particular, the Council may wish to establish a regular meeting date for the initial months of the CouncilŐs operations. The Chair calls the meetings of the Council, in coordination with the Designated Federal Officer.

Selection of Topics to be Addressed by the Council

Under the Charter, TVA may recommend topics, but -- within the confines of the Charter-- selection of topics is left to the Council itself. The topics to be discussed, and the priority of these topics, will be an early agenda item for the Council.

Attendance

Without continuity, most of the advantages of an advisory committee are lost. Council members are strongly encouraged to maintain regular meeting attendance.

Participation of Observers

The FACA requires that notice of all Council meetings be provided to the public and interested members of the public may attend meetings and file statements with the Council. A period of time will be set aside during each meeting at which members of the public may address the Council. However, members of the public will be encouraged to submit their comments directly to the Council or individual Council members prior to the meetings.

Standing Subcommittees and Informal Work Groups

The Council may, as needed, establish standing subcommittees or informal work groups or task forces to accomplish specific work tasks. The Charter specifies that TVA must approve the membership of subcommittees. In practice, the Chair will consult with both TVA and the Council on the membership of the subcommittees. The Chair, in consultation with the Council, may establish informal work groups or task forces.

Communication with the Media

To avoid situations where the media is used to debate issues before the Council, the Chair will serve as the spokesperson of the Council. Other Council members will avoid speaking for the Council. The Chair is expected to consult with the entire group about what should be said, and should endeavor to represent the thinking of the entire group not just his own opinion. Members of the Council are free to express their own opinion on issues to the media but should avoid characterizing the activities of the Council or commenting on the opinions expressed by other Council members.

Confidentiality of Materials

In all likelihood, the Council will, from time to time, review draft documents that could undergo substantial modification before being made public. Rules may be required to govern the confidentiality of these materials.

Council Member Travel Expenses

Council members will be reimbursed for travel required to attend Council meetings, and, subject to TVA approval, to participate in other Council business. All travel is subject to federal travel regulations and TVA procedures. TVA will issue guidelines describing the procedures for reimbursement.

Minutes

TVA staff will be responsible for keeping the record of Council meetings. All minutes are subject to review by the Council.

Mutual Respect Standards

Members of the Council agree to treat everyone else on the Council with the same respect with which they would like to be treated.

They agree to:

  • Listen to each other.
  • Seek common ground where possible o Focus on fixing problems, not blame
  • Provide full and open disclosure of information

Members of the Council also agree to refrain from:

  • Interrupting each other.
  • Name calling.
  • Attributing negative motives to other group memberŐs opinions and ideas.
  • Relying on hearsay information.

 

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