Norris to leave Iowa Utilities Board, work for Vilsack again

John Norris will become Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s chief of staff at the US Department of Agriculture, Iowa Independent reported today. Norris was Vilsack’s chief of staff early in his first term as governor.

In November, Norris’s wife, Jackie Norris, accepted an offer to become chief of staff for First Lady Michelle Obama.

Before Barack Obama announced his plan to nominate Vilsack to run the USDA, John Norris indicated that he was interested in being appointed to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Norris’s departure means that Governor Chet Culver will need to make two appointments to the three-member Iowa Utilities Board this spring. Norris currently chairs the IUB. Someone will need to fill the remainder of his term, which expires in April 2011.

IUB member Krista Tanner has been serving out the remainder of a term that expires in April 2009. I do not know whether she will ask to be reappointed to a full six-year term on that body.

Last year Tanner and Norris cast the deciding votes to approve an application to build a new coal-fired power plant near Marshalltown. However, the IUB has yet to issue a ruling on ratemaking principles for that plant. Reuters reported last March,

Ratemaking principles define how construction costs will be recovered in utility rates throughout the life of the generating facility. [Interstate Power and Light] is requesting a 12.55 percent return on common equity as part of the filing.

Several environmental organizations have intervened with the IUB regarding the ratemaking for this proposed plant. The board’s decision could affect whether Interstate Power and Light proceeds with this project or abandons it as unprofitable. LS Power recently announced that it no longer plans to build a coal-fired power plant near Waterloo.

If you know any qualified candidates who are interested in serving on the Iowa Utilities Board, encourage them to submit their resumes and supporting materials to the governor’s office as soon as possible.  

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