Senate confirms John Norris nomination to FERC

The U.S. Senate has confirmed President Obama’s nomination of Iowa Democrat John R. Norris to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

In a voice vote Dec. 24, 2009, the Senate approved the nomination of Norris to fill a commission seat vacated by the resignation of former Chairman Joseph Kelliher, a Republican.

“John brings to FERC a wealth of experience, talent, and knowledge that will help us to meet the challenges of providing reliable, efficient, and sustainable energy for consumers,” FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said.

The floor action follows the Oct. 8 endorsement of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which sent Norris’ name to the full Senate. (HydroWorld 10/14/09)

“I am grateful for the opportunity to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and work toward ensuring open and fair energy markets in which consumers, retailers, and wholesalers can have confidence,” Norris said. “We face many challenges as we chart the course for America’s energy future. The FERC will play a critical role in meeting those challenges…”

Norris, most recently chief of staff to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, is former chief of staff to then Iowa Gov. Vilsack, a former chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, and chairman of the Iowa Utilities Board from 2005-2009.

In a confirmation hearing Aug. 6, Norris told the committee that new hydropower projects would be crucial to meet the nation’s demand for clean, renewable power.

“Investments in such capital-intensive industries as electric generation and transmission, hydroelectric power, natural gas infrastructure, and more are jeopardized by an uncertain future,” Norris said. “There is a need to address such concerns.”

The appointment gives Democrats three seats on the five-member commission, including Wellinghoff of Nevada, who was designated chairman in March by Obama, succeeding Kelliher in that position.

The third Democrat, Suedeen Kelly of New Mexico, announced in September she would not accept nomination to a third term. Although Kelly’s current term expired in June, she will continue to serve on the commission until the Senate confirms a replacement.

The Republicans on the commission are Philip Moeller of Washington and Marc Spitzer of Arizona.

Norris is a 1995 graduate of the University of Iowa College of Law, after receiving an undergraduate degree from Simpson College in Iowa. He served as chief of staff to Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa, from 1997-1998, and from 1989-2003 owned a restaurant in Iowa.

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