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Senate Confirms Former Iowa Regulator to FERC

Before leaving for the holidays, the Senate finally got around to confirming former Iowa regulator John Norris to FERC. The move all but guarantees that the Commission will not run into quorum problems in the New Year.

The nomination of Norris had been hung up in the Senate since early October by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) over an unresolved hydropower issue in her state (see NGI, Nov. 16, 2009).

Norris, a Democrat, will join Chairman Jon Wellinghoff, a Democrat; Commissioner Philip D. Moeller, a Republican; and Commissioner Marc Spitzer, a Republican, on the Commission in 2010. Norris will finish the term vacated by former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Chairman Joseph Kelliher. His term will expire on June 30, 2012.

Norris was a board member and chairman of the Iowa Utilities Board from March 2005 until earlier this year. He currently is chief of staff for Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

"We face many challenges as we chart the course for America's energy future," he said. "The FERC will play a critical role in meeting those challenges, including minimizing the impact changes will have on consumers, ensuring adequate investment in upgrading and building new infrastructure and meeting our nation's goals for reducing [carbon dioxide] emissions."

Even as Norris joins FERC, one seat will remain vacant. The White House reportedly is looking at two prominent female state commissioners to succeed Commissioner Suedeen Kelly, according to a Washington, DC, source. After six years at FERC Kelly participated in her last monthly agency meeting on Dec. 17.

The two potential nominees include Colette D. Honorable, a member of the Arkansas Public Service Commission since October 2007; and Lauren Azar, a member of the Wisconsin Public Service Commission since March 2007.

Arkansas' Honorable is a member of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) and serves as co-vice chair of the Committee on Gas. She was named one of Arkansas Business' "Top 40 Under 40" in 2006 and received the 2007 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Living Legacy Award.

In addition to being a Wisconsin regulator, Azar is president of the Organization of Midwest ISO States, a nonprofit organization of representatives from each state that is included in the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator. She also sits on NARUC's Electricity Committee and the Nuclear Issues-Waste Disposal Subcommittee.

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