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Former PUC chief joins SkarlatosZonarich LLC

Firm also announces two new hires

James H. Cawley - (Photo / Submitted)

Former Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission chairman and member James H. Cawley has joined the Harrisburg law firm of SkarlatosZonarich LLC as an energy consultant.

The retired attorney served two terms as a member of the PUC, from 1979 to 1985 and from 2005 to 2015, and was chairman from 2008 to 2011.

His most recent term on the panel expired on March 31, 2015.

“Jim Cawley will be available to provide insights into the workings of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, which has jurisdiction over a range of legal issues relevant to the energy sector,” managing partner John R. Zonarich said. “We are hopeful that even other energy practices will wish to consult with him to take advantage of his deep administrative law experience.”

Cawley said he has known the principals for 35 years, and looks forward to bringing his expertise to bear on their behalf.

“I can’t say enough good things about them,” he said. “They are upstanding individuals and lawyers.”

Looking at the national and state energy picture, Cawley sees a number of issues ahead.

First, while President-elect Donald Trump has signaled a willingness to reverse clean energy regulations advanced under the Obama administration, Cawley stressed that a Republican White House may find the process challenging, even with a Republican Congress.

The legislative branch, he suggested, “guards its prerogatives jealously,” and disagreement with the new president is certainly possible, especially if some lawmakers have different views about how to proceed.

At the state level, Cawley noted that while Pennsylvanians have benefited from low natural gas prices, they pose challenges for the profitable operation of nuclear and coal-fired plants — and that, too, could create conflict with some of Trump’s policy goals, notably his desire to build up the coal industry.

A graduate of St. Bonaventure University and Notre Dame Law School, Cawley was one of the original law clerks for Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court when it came into existence in 1970.

He served as majority counsel to the state Senate Consumer Affairs Committee and chief counsel to the Democratic floor leader in the Senate, and was a major drafter of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Code.

His second tour of duty on the PUC began in 2005 under former Gov. Ed Rendell. The Democrat appointed Cawley to lead the panel three years later, praising him as “an expert in utility regulation and utility law,” whom Rendell said “shares my commitment to promoting and expanding our use of alternative energy and conservation measures to reduce demand.”

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in 2011 appointed commissioner Robert F. Powelson to succeed Cawley as chairman.

Two new hires


Skarlatos-Zonarich also annnounced two new hires: Connie C. Wilson as a senior associate lawyer, and Jennifer M. Merx, as an associate.

Wilson has international law experience and has served in several corporate in-house counsel positions, the firm said.

Her practice includes, among other areas, structuring, buying, and selling business assets; managing and protecting intellectual property; environmental compliance; and legislative advocacy.

Wilson is a graduate of the Dickinson School of Law and of Long Island University.

Merx’s practice encompasses estate planning, elder law and real estate, the firm said.

She is a graduate of the Widener University School of Law, the Pennsylvania State University and the paralegal program at Harrisburg Area Community College.

Skarlatos-Zonarich employs a staff of 16 lawyers, consultants and other professionals, as well as a 12-member support staff.

Roger DuPuis
Roger DuPuis covers Cumberland County, health care, transportation, distribution, energy and environment. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at [email protected].

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