Addressing a group of 140 business leaders, many representing Connecticut’s manufacturing sector, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Robert Klee said his agency plans to continue collaborating with the business community to move Connecticut forward environmentally and economically.

“Our agency has been undergoing a tremendous transformation in the last three years,” said Klee, noting among other things the adoption of Connecticut’s Comprehensive Energy Strategy, a first-in-the-nation green bank, and other innovations in energy and energy financing.

“We’re leveraging $10 in private capital for every dollar in ratepayer fees.”

Klee [pictured above], who was appointed commissioner earlier this year, was the keynote speaker at CBIA’s 2014 Environmental and Energy Conference in Waterbury on June 6.

Challenges Ahead

Both the commissioner and DEEP Deputy Commissioner Macky McCleary outlined DEEP’s new materials management strategy, which aims to double the state’s recycling rate from 30% to 60% through what McCleary described as “game-changing technology, outreach, and education.”

They also discussed information technology investments and DEEP’s “drive to be a more paperless agency and make documents searchable online.”

In the area of cleanup transformation, however, Klee acknowledged that there are “still challenges ahead.”

He added, “We’re obviously charged with maintaining high environmental standards, and we can do this in a way that’s in partnership with businesses, in collaboration, to make sure we’re all pulling in the same direction.”

Efforts to revitalize Connecticut’s contaminated and often abandoned properties, known as brownfields, gained legislative ground in this year’s General Assembly session with the passage of a bill providing greater flexibility in remediation, reporting, and financing for those who volunteer to clean up contaminated properties.

But DEEP is deeply engaged in preparing legislative and regulatory proposals that  will fundamentally change standards and procedures for reporting releases and environmental cleanup.

“If constructed carefully, with a strong focus on practicality and efficiency, the potential outcome is very promising,” says CBIA’s Eric Brown. “If not,” he cautions, “it could set us back quite a bit.”

RGGI—Here to Stay?

In the wake of President Obama’s renewed emphasis on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, audience members asked about the future of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI  the Northeast’s market-based cap-and-trade program aimed at limiting greenhouse gas emissions within a 10-state region.

“Since Connecticut is downwind of everybody and there’s talk of a federal greenhouse gas program, when do you plan to phase out RGGI?” one audience member asked.

Klee responded that he does not anticipate a phase out of RGGI and in fact hopes more states will join.

On his agency’s overall approach to the regulated community, he said, “The government has charged us with transforming the way we do business. The spirit here is that we’re trying to play a real positive role in the state’s economy and environment.