Thursday, October 20, 2022

Senate Confirms Three PUC Commissioners Bringing 5-Member Panel Up To Full Strength For First Time In More Than 18 Months

On October 19, the
Public Utility Commission welcomed the return of Commissioner John F. Coleman Jr. and the arrival of Commissioners Stephen M. DeFrank and Kathryn L. Zerfuss to the PUC. 

The Commission thanked Gov. Tom Wolf for his nominations, along with the Pennsylvania Senate for its support of all three nominations earlier.

This is the first time the five-member panel has been at full strength since Senate Republicans notified Gov. Wolf on April 21, 2021 (Earth Day) they would reject all future nominees to the PUC until he withdraws his executive order joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to reduce carbon pollution from power plants.  Read more here.

The PUC has nothing to do with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Program.

“We look forward to the return of Commissioner Coleman’s experienced voice, along with the new perspectives we will gain with the arrival of Commissioners DeFrank and Zerfuss,” said Commission Chairman Gladys Brown Dutrieuille. “Pennsylvania continues to face a diverse list of utility issues, and their voices, insights and backgrounds will be vital as the PUC moves forward.”

The appointment of all three commissioners was approved today by the Pennsylvania Senate, following unanimous recommendations on Oct. 18, 2022, by the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee. The commissioners will be sworn in during private ceremonies tomorrow in Harrisburg.

John F. Coleman Jr.

John F. Coleman Jr. has been a member of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) leadership team since 2010, when he was first appointed Commissioner. 

During his tenure, he was nominated by three different governors—Governors Edward G. Rendell, Tom Corbett and Tom Wolf.

He served as vice chairman of the Commission from 2011 to 2015, and from October 2021 through September 2022. His new term expires April 1, 2027.

In written testimony submitted to the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee, Commissioner Coleman said, “Please know that as a commissioner I will continue to do everything in my power to support the PUC’s mission. A reason why I sought to come back before this esteemed committee upon the expiration of my most recent five-year term is that there are important matters remaining to accomplish.” 

Commissioner Coleman listed three of his priorities: leading a PUC One Call Working Group to support the reauthorization of Act 50 of 2017, officially the “Underground Utility Line Protection Law,” which sunsets in 2024; ensuring the Commission continues to be structured in the best way to accomplish its mission; and keeping a close eye on energy suppliers to make sure everyone is following the rules in our competitive marketplace.

Commissioner Coleman is a member of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) Committee on Gas, an inaugural member of NARUC’s Pipeline Safety Committee, and co-chaired the organization’s Natural Gas Access and Expansion Task Force.

He served as a board member of the Organization of PJM States or OPSI from 2013 to 2017. OPSI is a regional partnership among 14 state regulatory agencies with jurisdictions in the service area of PJM, which operates the high-voltage electric transmission grid and wholesale electricity market.

His commitment to public service also includes his current role as chairman of the Gas Technology Institute Public Interest Advisory Committee. He is also a member of the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority Board of Directors.

Commissioner Coleman is a certified Economic Development Professional with a strong background in business and finance, capital formation, community and economic development, and business startup and expansion.

Commissioner Coleman is a graduate of Saint Francis University and the United States Chamber of Commerce Institute of Organizational Management at Notre Dame.

Stephen M. DeFrank

Stephen M. DeFrank was nominated to serve as Commissioner by Gov. Tom Wolf on Sept. 20, 2022, and subsequently confirmed. His term will expire on April 1, 2025.

In written testimony submitted to the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee, Commissioner DeFrank said: “While my time in the Senate gave me an understanding of utility regulation from a policy standpoint, my subsequent private sector experience has given me an understanding of energy delivery from a practical standpoint. Coupled together, these jobs have given me the unique opportunity of contributing to the passage of every major energy-related piece of legislation for the past decade. As a lifelong resident of the Commonwealth, I know both the needs of our consumers and the challenges our distribution systems face.”

Before joining the PUC, DeFrank worked as government relations professional at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, after spending 24 years of his career in Pennsylvania state government, including time with the Senate of Pennsylvania, where he served as chief of staff/executive director to Senator Lisa M. Boscola, Democratic chair of the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee.

Commissioner DeFrank is experienced in public policy formulation and regulatory review relative to energy and utility sectors. He has worked on the enactment of numerous pieces of legislation over the past decade, including expansion of the distribution system improvement charge, legalization of transportation network company services and the reauthorization of Chapter 14 of the Public Utility Code. 

As a commissioner, DeFrank plans to initially focus on a couple of areas of utility regulation, including the delivery of safe and reliable utility service to ratepayers; the rebuilding of aging utility distribution infrastructure; and preparation for cyber threats to utility distribution systems.

Commissioner DeFrank was born and raised in Uniontown, Fayette County. He lives in Harrisburg and is married with two daughters.

Kathryn L. Zerfuss

Kathryn L. Zerfuss was nominated to serve as commissioner by Gov. Tom Wolf on Sept. 20, 2022, and subsequently confirmed by the Pennsylvania Senate. Her term will expire on April 1, 2026.

In her confirmation testimony before the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee, Commissioner Zerfuss said she respects the mission of the PUC and will work in a transparent, bipartisan way on the pressing utility-related issues that impact the individuals, families and businesses of this Commonwealth.

“Everything that I have done in my almost 20 years in Harrisburg has prepared me to become a public utility commissioner and taught me something about the Commission’s constituencies. I have good judgment, a fair and balanced approach, and an intellectual curiosity that drives me to seek out facts, research and find answers to questions. I always try to work in a transparent, bipartisan way to find a common solution for all. I respect the mission of the agency and will work tirelessly to learn the issues that impact individuals, families and businesses.”

Commissioner Zerfuss is a highly regarded government affairs strategist, public servant and trusted adviser who has spent nearly 20 years advancing regulatory and policy issues with a concentration in education, workforce development, worker protections, tax fairness, victim rights and the environment.

She joined the Office of Governor Tom Wolf in the beginning of his second term as a deputy secretary for legislative affairs. 

Among many of her key initiatives and contributions in this position, she established the PASmart initiative to encourage students, workers and businesses to collaborate on programs that meet the needs of a 21st century workforce and secured Pennsylvania’s first tax credit to help working families with childcare.

She grew up in Tamaqua, Schuylkill County. An alumna of Elizabethtown College in Lancaster County, with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, she lives in Mechanicsburg and is married with three children.

Visit the Public Utility Commission website to learn more about its responsibilities.

[Posted: October 20, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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