Dan Esty LAW ’86, the Hillhouse Professor of Environmental Law and Policy at both the School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences and Yale Law School, will head up Gov. Dannel Malloy’s new department of environment and energy policy, the governor announced in a press conference Thursday.

In his new role with the Malloy administration, Esty will oversee the consolidation of Connecticut’s environment and energy policy, currently spread through many state government offices, into one main body as part of Malloy’s effort to streamline government and shrink the state budget. Esty said he will emphasize cooperation with business as a means to create a greener state.

“Existing energy policy has been scattered across a variety of different departments and agencies,” Esty said. “It’s an opportunity now to have that all brought into a single framework.”

Earlier this week Malloy announced he would be consolidating the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Public Utility Control into Esty’s agency, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Esty said he will draw on experience not only from his academic work, but also from his environmental consulting firm, Esty Environmental Partners. In the past, his firm has worked with major multinational corporations — including Walmart, Boeing, Microsoft and American Eagle — to help them implement better, greener business practices.

The appointment marks a return to the political realm for Esty, who called the offer an “enormous opportunity.” He previously served as deputy chief of staff in the Environmental Protection Agency during George H.W. Bush’s ’48 administration, and during the 2008 presidential campaign he advised President Barack Obama on environmental policy. Esty also worked on Obama’s transition team.

Though the state government lacks the national impact of his past positions, Esty said it will provide him an opportunity to put into practice the environmental policy he has been studying in academia and focused on in his consulting work.

“In many regards, the research agenda that I have pursued for many years, thinking about how to do policy different and give better incentives to engage the business world, plays out at the state level,” Esty said. “I’m really excited to make Connecticut a model for this new approach to environmental protection and clean energy.”

Across the state, environmental advocates lauded Malloy’s decision to tap Esty for the new agency. Don Strait, the executive director of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, called the choice “outstanding,” and in a statement commended Esty for his “cutting-edge” thinking and his wealth of knowledge and experience.

“We think he is the exact right person to address these challenges, and look forward to working with him in the months to come,” Strait said.

But before Esty can begin work, the Connecticut Senate must approve his candidacy, as well as Malloy’s proposal to combine the Public Utilities and Environmental Protection departments into one agency. Esty said he does not foresee the Democrat-controlled legislature opposing Malloy’s plans, and expects to begin working with the new department in a few weeks.

Esty’s gain, though, is Yale’s loss, said University President Richard Levin, who called him an “extraordinarily talented member of our faculty” who is “leading the nation” in environmental policy. Esty is currently teaching one course on trade law and globalization at the School of Forestry. Though he could begin working for Malloy in a matter of weeks, he said he plans to continue teaching until the end of the semester, at which point he will begin a two-year leave of absence.

“I think Dan has public service in his blood,” Levin said.

Esty is married to Law School researcher Elizabeth Esty LAW ’85, who served one term as a Democrat representing Cheshire in the state legislature but lost a re-election bid last November.