UPDATE: Nixon appoints new utility board chairman

Thursday, February 10, 2011 | 6:19 p.m. CST; updated 7:09 p.m. CST, Wednesday, February 23, 2011

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Thursday appointed Kevin Gunn to be the new chairman of the state board responsible for regulating utilities.

Nixon appointed Gunn to replace Robert Clayton, who a day earlier had asked the governor to appoint a new chairman for the Missouri Public Service Commission. The five-member commission regulates investor-owned electric, steam, natural gas, water, sewer and telephone companies in the state.

Nixon said Thursday that Gunn will play a significant role in shaping the state's energy future.

"A key part of that will be wise investment in renewable energy sources, and Kevin will give us strong leadership on that issue," Nixon said.

Gunn said he is still deciding what his priorities will be as chairman. He said he wants to continue Clayton's efforts to make the commission more efficient and accessible to the public.

Gunn said the state won't be moving away from coal-based energy anytime soon, but agreed with Nixon that alternative energy sources could play a role in the state's economic recovery, especially considering the biomass available in the state's trees and grasses.

"What's good about those plants is they can be constructed in the very rural areas of the state and lead to immediate job creation there," he said of potential biomass facilities.

Clayton has served on the commission since 2003 and was named chairman in 2009. On Wednesday, he stepped down as chairman, saying he had accomplished all of his goals as leader. He will remain a member of the board. Clayton was an attorney in Hannibal and served four terms in the Missouri House of Representatives starting in 1994, representing Marion and Shelby counties.

Gunn, of Webster Groves, has been a member of the commission since 2008. Before his appointment by Republican Gov. Matt Blunt, Gunn was chief of staff for Democratic U.S. Rep. Dick Gephardt. He has also worked as an attorney in the St. Louis area.

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