The newly appointed head of the Department of Environmental Protection, Dan Esty LAW ’86, hopes to make Connecticut the leading state in the race toward a clean energy future.
Esty, also a Hillhouse Professor of Environmental Law and Policy at Yale, is in the process of combining the state’s environment and energy policy, by combining the Bureau of Energy Policy & Efficiency, responsible for the development and analysis of state energy policy, and the Bureau of Utilities Control. He said the department’s new focus will be on creating policies that will provide incentives for business to transition to clean energy.
“Every single thing we do is going to have three things — environmental protection, energy and economic growth,” he said.
According to the new policies, the state will not only tax those who are producing greenhouse gases, but it will also provide structural support for businesses that create new forms of energy. Esty added that the support, which will include a range of incentives such as subsidies, is structured in a way as to benefit anyone who is willing to embrace clean energy.
Esty said that, unlike the old policies, the new ones will engage the private sector in helping to solve problems. The old model was based on “command and rule” regulation, he said, where the government told businesses what to do.
“The new [energy] policy has potential to benefit businesses of all sizes,” he said. “We want to create a platform for businesses to expand”.
Contrary to popular belief, protecting the environment is not mutually exclusive to reaping profits, Esty said.
Andrew Goldstein ’13, policy chair of the Yale Undergraduate Energy Club, said that he is pleased that Esty is pursuing a new kind of dialogue.
While conservation and sustainability remain crucial, Goldstein said, the most urgent problem is that of energy production and the sources where energy is acquired.
“Turning the light off for a short period doesn’t change the energy sources that power it for the rest of the day,” Goldstein said.
In his role for state government, Esty will be taking a two-year leave of absence from Yale, starting at the beginning of summer. He is currently teaching a course on trade law and globalization at the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.
The Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies has hired an interim director, Doug Kysar, for the period that Esty will be serving in office. Kysar will be the director for both the Center for Environmental Law and Policy and the Center for Business and Environment at Yale.
Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies Dean Peter Crane said he is “thrilled” about Esty’s new appointment, adding that Esty is well qualified for the position.
Still, he will be waiting when Esty’s government work ends.
“We are very much planning on his return,” Crane said, adding that Esty’s appointment reflects well on Yale.
For now, of course, Esty’s focus is on Connecticut as a whole.
In addition to business growth, Esty said the new policies will spur economic activity within the state.
“By having these incentives for the private sector to invest in energy, we anticipate creating a lot of new private sector jobs,” Esty said, referring to the number of people who will be employed to install the new technology.
While the state is encouraging a shift toward alternative energy sources, Esty said there is still an emphasis on energy efficiency. The state will invest in equipping commercial buildings, apartments and schools with energy efficient lighting, insulation as well as windows, he said, adding that the paybacks will come in the form of reduced electricity bills over a period of two to three years.
Esty served as deputy chief of staff in the Environmental Protection Agency during George H.W. Bush’s ’48 administration, and he advised President Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign.