Iowa Utilities Board update, with background on Sheila Tipton and Nick Wagner

Catching up on news from last Friday, Governor Terry Branstad appointed Des Moines-based attorney Sheila Tipton to fill a term on the Iowa Utilities Board that runs through April 2015. Tipton replaces Swati Dandekar, who resigned earlier this month, presumably with a view toward running for Congress. After the jump I’ve posted background on Tipton. Her law practice has primarily focused on representing “energy, telecommunications and water public utilities and other business entities” before state and federal agencies. She will be subject to Iowa Senate confirmation during the 2014 legislative session. I don’t envision her having any trouble during that process.

For decades, the Iowa Utilities Board had at least one attorney among its three members. Branstad broke with that tradition when he named Dandekar to a vacancy in 2011. Earlier this year, the governor sought to appoint another non-lawyer, former GOP State Representative Nick Wagner, to the same board. He later withdrew Wagner’s nomination, which was in trouble in the Democratic-controlled Iowa Senate. But one day after the legislature adjourned for this year, Branstad named Wagner to the Iowa Utilities Board on an interim basis. Wagner will also be subject to confirmation during the 2014 legislative session. After the jump I’ve posted Wagner’s official bio and some background on Senate Democrats’ concerns about confirming him to this position.

Any comments related to the new appointees or the work of the Iowa Utilities Board are welcome in this thread. Incidentally, there is already another Republican candidate in the Iowa House district where Democrat Daniel Lundby defeated Wagner in the 2012 general election.

Governor Terry Branstad’s press release of July 19:

Gov. Terry E. Branstad today named Des Moines attorney Sheila K. Tipton to the Iowa Utilities Board.

Tipton, 61, is a shareholder of the Belin McCormick law firm in Des Moines, primarily practicing in the area of the law of essential infrastructure, where she represented energy, telecommunications and water public utilities, renewable energy developers and customers, as well as other business entities, in certification, siting, ratemaking, rulemaking, merger, reorganization, compliance and other litigated proceedings before state and federal administrative agencies and in the state and federal courts.

She begins her new role on August 19, 2013.

“Sheila Tipton brings with her a wealth of experience and knowledge to the Iowa Utilities Board, and I am pleased she is taking on this important role for the state,” said Gov. Branstad. “As we develop regulatory policies that promote energy production, and provide for the preservation and improvement of important infrastructure in Iowa, while protecting consumers, her perspective and voice will be extremely valuable.”

Tipton is listed in The Best Lawyers in America® in the areas of Energy, Communications and Administrative Law (1991-present.) She was awarded Best Lawyers’ 2012 Des Moines Communications Law Lawyer of the Year. She is involved in numerous community and professional activities, including the Downtown Community Alliance and Energy Bar Association.

“I am excited to begin my work on the Iowa Utilities Board,” said Tipton. “Regulatory policy, including energy policy, is vitally important to Iowa’s future, and affects everyone. I want to ensure Iowa’s families, schools, businesses and nonprofits have access to regulatory policy and standards they deserve.”

Tipton is replacing Swati Dandekar, who resigned from the board earlier this month.

Tipton and her husband, William L. Dawe, reside in Clive. They have four sons.

Biography from the website of the Des Moines law firm where Sheila Tipton is a partner.

Sheila Tipton is a shareholder of the firm primarily practicing in the area of the law of essential infrastructure.

Ms. Tipton represents energy, telecommunications and water public utilities and other business entities, in certification, siting, ratemaking, rulemaking, merger, reorganization, compliance and other litigated proceedings before state and federal administrative agencies and in the state and federal courts.  She also represents such entities in general business matters, including business organization,  acquisition, sale and merger of businesses, shareholder disputes, corporate documentation and employment matters.

Ms. Tipton is an author and lecturer in her areas of expertise.  On August 26, 2011 Ms. Tipton presented at the Third Annual Conference on New Developments in Renewable Energy in the Midwest. For more information on that conference, click here to visit the website.

Publications and Presentations

Contributor, The Energy Bar Journal

Contributor, American Bar Association Section of Public Utility Law Annual Reports

“How Energy Policy is Evolving at the State Level – Iowa.” Presenter at the Third Annual Conference on New Developments in Renewable Energy in the Midwest (August 26, 2011)

“New Protocols for Reducing Cost and Delay in Commercial Arbitration.” The Iowa Lawyer 71.2 (2011)

“Emerging Public Utility Antitrust Issues.” Newsletter of  the Trade Regulation Section of the Iowa State Bar Association (Summer, 1999)

“Emerging Public Utility Antitrust Issues.” Speech and outline presented at the annual meeting of the combined meeting of the Trade Regulation and Corporate Counsel sections of the Iowa State Bar Association (September 15, 1998)

Honors and Accomplishments

Listed in The Best Lawyers in America® in the areas of Energy, Communications and Administrative Law (1991 to present)

Best Lawyers’ 2012 Des Moines Communications Law Lawyer of the Year

Listed in Super Lawyers (2007-present)

AV® Preeminent Peer Review Rating by Martindale-Hubbell

Listed in Who’s Who in American Law

Award of Recognition (Polk County Legal Aid Society, 1991)

Drake University Law School Outstanding Alumna Award (2009)

Governor’s Volunteer Award (1997)

Community & Professional Activities

Downtown Community Alliance (Board Member 2012-present)

AIB College of Business (Board Member 2012-present)

Embassy Club (Board Member 2012-present)

Energy Bar Association (Member of the State Commission and Practice, Climate Change and Emissions, and Legislation Committees 2009; Co-Chair, Power Generation and Marketing Committee, 2006)

Iowa State Bar Association (Member, Chair, International Trade Committee, 1992-1994; Co-Chair, Quality of Life Task Force, 1993-1996; Member, Section Council, Section of Business Law, 1993-1996; Member, Section Council, Section of Administrative Law, 1989-1991)

American Bar Association (Member, Electricity Subcommittee of the Public Utility Section, 2002-2005)

Drake University Law School (Member, Board of Counselors, 1996-1998 and 2003 to 2009; President, 2006-2007)

Rotary Club of Des Moines (Member, Board of Directors, 1996; President, 2001-2002)

Des Moines Metro Opera, Inc. (Member, Board of Directors, 1991-1997 and 2009-; President, 1996-1997)

Youth Homes of Mid-America (Member, Board of Directors, 1990-1997; Vice President, 1996-1997)

Polk County Legal Aid Society (President, 1991-1992; Member, Board of Directors, 1990-1992)

Significant Reported Cases

City of Coralville v. Iowa Utilities Bd., 750 N.W. 2d 523 (Iowa 2008)(jurisdictional dispute)

Crystal Lake Wind, LLC, Docket Nos. E-21830 – 21833, 208 WL 2314823 (Iowa U.B. 2008) (transmission line franchising)

Wisconsin Public Service Co., Docket No. WRU-08-34 (Iowa U.B. 2008)(wind energy generation siting waiver).

Cities of Everly, Kalona, Rolfe, Terril and Wellman v. Interstate Power & Light Co., Docket Nos. SPU-06-5 – 06-9 and SPU-06-10 (Iowa U.B. 2008)(municipalization proceeding)

Iowa-American Water Co., Docket No. RPU-07-03, 2008 WL 167317 (Iowa U.B. 2008)(water rate case)

South Slope Cooperative Telephone Co., Docket No. RPU-07-1, 2008 WL 434884 (Iowa U.B. 2008)(access charge rate case)

Iowa Telecommunications Services, Inc. v. South Slope Cooperative Telephone Co., Docket No. FCU-06-25 (Iowa U.B. 2007)(complaint proceeding)

Interstate Power & Light Co. and FPL Energy Duane Arnold, LLC,

Docket No. SPU-05-15 (Iowa U.B. December 2005) (sale of nuclear plant)

Deregulation of Local Exchange Services in Competitive Markets

Docket No. INU-04-1, 238 P.U.R.4th 231 (Iowa U.B.  2004)

Iowa Telecommunications Services, Inc., Docket No. SPU-04-10

2004 WL 1944106 (Iowa U.B. 2004) (corporate reorganization)

Wagner’s biography from the Iowa Utilities Board website:

Nick Wagner officially began serving as a member of the Iowa Utilities Board on May 24, 2013.  Governor Branstad appointed Wagner on May 24, 2013, to fill a term ending on April 30, 2019.

Board member Wagner serves on NARUC’s Committee on Critical Infrastructure and the Washington Action Program.

Prior to joining the Board, Wagner was the Director of Quality Management for the ESCO Group in Marion, Iowa.  His professional and management duties at ESCO Group included project execution in the utility industry primarily focused on standby and emergency diesel generator control, facility energy and efficiency audits, and building control.

Wagner served in the Iowa House of Representatives from 2008 to 2012.  He served as ranking member and chair of the Local Government Committee and as vice chair of the Appropriations Committee. Wagner also sat on the Administration and Regulation Budget Sub Committee and the Commerce, Transportation, and Ways and Means Committees.

Wagner previously served four years as an at-large elected member of the Marion City Council.

Wagner received his Bachelor of Science degree in biomedical engineering in 1996 and a Master’s of Science degree in electrical engineering in 1998, both from the University of Iowa.  He and his wife, Mandie, reside in Marion and have a daughter and son.

From Rod Boshart’s report for the Cedar Rapids Gazette on June 10:

“I don’t think we’re going to see a replay of the politics that were played in the Senate last session,” Branstad said Monday. “I think that was unfair and unfortunate to the nominees, and I believe that the people I’ve chosen are very well qualified, they have a tremendous background.” […]

However, Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, said it was a misread on the governor’s part if he thought the problems that cropped up over his nominees were rooted in politics because the objections were based on policy concerns. And, he said, the same concerns that were raised by Wagner’s IUB appointment likely will resurface next session.

“This idea that somehow rejecting some of his nominees was partisan never was a valid observation,” said Hogg, noting that 99 percent of Branstad’s appointments won confirmation. […]

Hogg said concerns continue over Wagner’s qualifications as a utility regulator and his 2011 support legislation to create a regulatory framework for a small-scale nuclear energy project by MidAmerican Energy.

“He voted for a bill in 2011 that was an unadulterated giveaway to the utility of ratepayer money to build a nuclear power plant without any consumer protections in it,” Hogg said. […]

“He’ll have a year now to try to show that he has the consumer’s best interest at heart,” the Democratic senator added. ” That bill he voted for was an abomination and he’s really going to have to demonstrate that he’s concerned about the public interest and consumers. Those concerns don’t go away just because Gov. Branstad withdraws them and makes an interim appointment.”

  • A fairly consistent line

    I think Dandekar was a bit of an exception, but that aside I would expect Tipton will be very much like the prior three Democratic appointed attorneys (all of whom had, like Tipton, primarily industry-side legal experience) — Berntsen, Tanner and Stamp (who was technically a no-party in a non-Democratic seat).  

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