Posted on March 17, 2011 by David Platt
On rare occasions, change comes even to the “land of steady habits”. New Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy (D) has proposed consolidating the energy and environmental functions of his administration into a new, integrated department. Ignoring for the moment the questionable new acronym that will result, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection or “DEEP”, this earth shattering (for Connecticut, anyway…) proposal seems to make a tremendous amount of sense, and will bring Connecticut into line with a number of other states who already have recognized the inextricable link between the environmental protection and energy policy functions.
Subject to the “never a slam dunk” approval of the Connecticut legislature, the energy policy and Department of Public Utility Control units will be combined with the Department of Environmental Protection’s existing regulatory natural resource conservation and management units. On its face, this proposal makes sense, as it acknowledges the inescapable overlap between environmental and energy policies, and seeks to ensure that policy decisions take into account and make sense given the two often competing sectors. Examples of key energy policy issues with environmental implications include repowering of aged generation units, incentives for alternative fuels and energy efficiency initiatives, and the ongoing “generation vs. transmission” debates. The integration of these energy functions, which currently are spread among a number of agencies including the Office of Policy and Management, with the traditional environmental regulatory functions will not necessarily be seamless, as the varied duties of the new agency will include regulation of oil dealers, control of state building construction standards, responses to energy emergencies and the monitoring of energy prices.
To head DEEP, Governor Malloy has proposed the appointment of Daniel Esty as the new Commissioner. Esty, a Professor at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and the Yale Law School, is a nationally renowned expert on environmental and energy policies, and in the past has worked in various senior positions at the Environmental Protection Agency. A frequent author, including his latest book “Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy, to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage”, Esty’s talents also reach into the economic aspects of the environmental and energy worlds. With his “deep” resume, Esty would add instant credibility and expertise to the new super agency.
Esty will be tasked by Governor Malloy to help lead Connecticut’s continuing efforts toward economic recovery. Among other challenges, Connecticut currently has among the nation’s highest rates for electricity, a problem that has very real effects on the business climate of the state. Like most other states, Connecticut also has faces the daunting task of dealing with an elephant-sized budget deficit, currently projected to be in the range of over $3 billion. Esty, who appears to have wide-spread support from both the business and environmental communities, most certainly will have his work cut out for him, but there are many constituents here in Connecticut pulling for him.