Outgoing Iowa Utilities Board member slams Branstad's attempt to "appease" major utility

Outgoing Iowa Utilities Board member Sheila Tipton sent Governor Terry Branstad a scathing letter after not being reappointed to the three-member board last month, Ryan Foley reported yesterday for the Associated Press. Tipton defended a board decision from earlier this year, which greatly displeased MidAmerican Energy. She warned that by removing her and demoting Iowa Utilities Board Chair Libby Jacobs, Branstad was undermining state agencies’ independence “in order to appease MidAmerican Energy,” thereby doing “a disservice to the citizens of this State.”

Tipton also characterized Branstad’s recent personnel changes as  “unfair,” saying she had received verbal assurances in 2013 that she would be reappointed to a full six-year term if she accepted the governor’s offer to serve out Swati Dandekar’s unexpired term.

I enclose the full text of Tipton’s letter after the jump, along with a statement provided by the governor’s office, which defends the appointment of Geri Huser and denies that Tipton was promised a full term on the Iowa Utilities Board.

Even if Branstad or his staff did promise verbally to reappoint Tipton, the governor retains the right to change his mind. However, Tipton is unquestionably correct that the latest Iowa Utilities Board changes look like “an attempt to ‘bring the agency in line’ and to influence its future decision-making in a way that favors the utilities.”

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Branstad names Geri Huser to Iowa Utilities Board, demotes Libby Jacobs (updated)

I missed this story last week, but Ryan Foley didn’t: Governor Terry Branstad is replacing Sheila Tipton with Geri Huser on the Iowa Utilities Board. Not only that, Branstad appointed Huser to chair that three-member board, demoting current Chair Libby Jacobs for the remainder of her term, which runs through April 2017. A recent board ruling that disappointed MidAmerican Energy, an investor-owned utility serving a large area in Iowa, precipitated the governor’s decision.

Details from Foley’s report are after the jump, along with background on Huser and first thoughts on her chances to be confirmed by the Iowa Senate.  

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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.

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