John Norris has submitted to President Obama his resignation from FERC effective Aug. 20, nearly three years before his current term is due to expire, the commissioner said late Thursday.

Norris said he is leaving the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to become minister-counselor for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Rome, Italy.

“It has been a great honor to serve with all the exceptional professionals and public servants who make up the FERC family and so many dedicated energy stakeholders in the public and private sectors,” Norris said.

A former member and chair of the Iowa Utilities Board, Norris was first nominated to FERC by Obama in 2010 and reconfirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2012 for a full term that was due to expire in June 2017 (see Daily GPI, May 29, 2012; Jan. 11, 2010).

Norris’ resignation comes on the heels of Cheryl LaFleur being designated to continue as FERC chairman until April 15, 2015, with newly sworn-in Commissioner Norman Bay set to take over the post at that time (see Daily GPI, Aug. 4). LaFleur had received overwhelming support from the U.S. Senate to continue serving as a commissioner (see Daily GPI, July 15). She had been serving as acting chairman of the agency since November, following the departure of Jon Wellinghoff (see Daily GPI, Nov. 21, 2013).

Besides LaFleur, Bay and Norris, the other FERC commissioners are Phillip Moeller and Tony Clark.

The White House hasn’t yet named a nominee to replace Norris. Published reports have named Colette D. Honorable, chairman of the Arkansas Public Service Commission and president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, as a potential candidate. Honorable was also considered a likely candidate to become FERC chairman last year as Obama searched for a replacement for Wellinghoff (see Daily GPI, Oct. 9, 2013).

The administration had considered Norris to become chairman but reconsidered. At the time, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was accused by Norris of blocking his appointment because the senator believed Norris was too pro-coal. Reid denied the allegation.