As of July 1st, the State of Connecticut has a brand new department in charge of all aspects of the state’s environmental and energy-related issues. The new department mergesthe former Department of Environmental Protection with the Department of Public Utilities Control, as well as the former energy policy division of the Office of Policy and Management and a few other related agencies.
The new DEEP will have three divisions:
- Environmental Protection, to handle pollution control
- Environmental Conservation, to care for the state parks and wildlife.
- Energy Division, which will oversee utility regulations, and administer an energy and technology policy bureau.
According to CT Mirror the new department comes with a “$183-million budget (about $78 million from state funds) and more than 850 employees–before cuts to help plug the state’s budget hole. It also comes with a new financing structure called the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority, often referred to as a ‘green bank’. The CEFIA replaces the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund.”
The goal of this new department is, among other things, to research and develop new ways in whichenergy is provided, to produce energy at lower costs, while protecting the environment. Not a small set of responsibilities for a single agency.
The concept of gathering environmental protection and energy efficiency matters under the same umbrella makes a lot of sense for many officials involved in the merging process, including Dan Esty the former DEP commissioner, and newly appointed DEEP commissioner.
For 20 years as Hillhouse Professor of Law and Environmental Policy at Yale University in New Haven., Daniel Etsy, 51, has been pointing to the fact that energy and environmental policies should not be examined separately.
He tells the Hartford Business Journal that he “intends to transform Connecticut’s broken-down, fractured energy policy into a national bellwether for innovation, efficiency and business cooperation, driving the state toward a clean and cheap energy future.”
According to Dan Etsy, having a cohesive, consistent State Policy for both energy and environment will ultimately benefit the State’s future. Esty believes that the transition to clean energy is inevitable, and even a small slice of the clean energy industry has too much profit potential for the State to overlook.
From a budget standpoint, the merger might allow for a leaner, more efficient operation where data from former departments can be compiled and cross-referenced. This should improve coordination and efficiency between divisions, streamlining decision making as well as policy implementation.
While some environmental groups worry that the emphasis on energy efficiency might cause classic environmental issues to be overlooked, many top environmental activists are optimistic about Etsy’s appointment.
Christopher Phelps, the director of Environment Connecticut tells Newstimes: “Dan is uniquely qualified, both because of his experience and his background. He’s really uniquely positioned to implement a new environmental protection and energy policy agency.”
Officials in the new DEEP are committed to give environmental and conservancy issues the same weight when making decisions.
Roger Reynolds of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, tells the CT Mirror:. “We’re definitely keeping our eye on it,” he says, “to make sure that the environmental function continues to be a strong and vigorous part of that agency.”
From a CT resident’s standpoint, having a centralized department to handle all these issues will probably make it easier for everyone to find information, follow up on new policies, programs and developments, as wells as track the environmental impact of ongoing energy projects. The divisions can be expected to work more cohesively, based on common, rather than diverging goals.
Etsy’s ambitious plan seeks to set standards that he hopes will be applied on a National level. We, as state residents hope that new CT DEEP succeeds in its efforts to bring about the changes that will give us all a better, brighter and more sustainable future.