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Senate Hearing on FERC Nominees Expected After Recess

A Senate nomination hearing for FERC Commissioner Suedeen Kelly and former Iowa regulator John Norris is expected to be delayed until lawmakers return from their summer recess in September.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over nominations to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), wants to hold one nomination hearing for Kelly and Norris rather than separate hearings, said Bill Wicker, a spokesman for Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM).

But while the committee has received the White House paperwork on Norris, it is awaiting the paperwork on Kelly, he said. So it is "increasingly likely" that the hearing for the FERC nominees will be held after the Senate returns from its month-long recess, which begins Aug. 10.

In March President Obama announced his intent to tap Kelly, a Democrat, for another term at the agency (see NGI, March 23). She has been a FERC commissioner since 2003. Her current term expired June 30, but she can continue to serve while the Senate considers her nomination. Kelly has the support of Bingaman, having at one time served as his legislative aide.

In mid-June Obama announced his intent to nominate Norris, currently chief of staff for Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, to a seat on the Commission (see NGI, June 15). Norris, former chairman of the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB), was considered a top contender for the FERC chairman slot after the presidential election last November (see NGI, Dec. 1, 2008). But he went to the Agriculture Department, and Jon Wellinghoff, a favorite of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), was tapped for FERC chairman. Obama named Wellinghoff as FERC chairman in March.

Norris was a board member and chairman of the IUB from March 2005 until earlier this year. Prior to coming to Washington, Norris was Sen. John Kerry's (D-MA) Iowa director during Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign and had been chief of staff for Vilsack when he was governor of Iowa. He also ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2002.

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