State lawmakers now are considering a historic proposal to merge Connecticut's energy agencies into the Department of Environmental Protection. The proposal, which would formally unite and potentially better integrate energy and environmental policies in the state under a new Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), is contained in HB 6386, as proposed by the Governor. 

Connecticut’s environmental landscape has evolved over the past decade, and the focus of policymakers, regulators and environmental groups now is on the current and future impact of energy production, transmission and consumption on climate, air quality, water usage, national security and the economy.

HB 6386, which awaits action by the Environment Committee, is designed to establish the new agency and help set clear, effective, efficient approaches for meeting a variety of societal needs in an environmentally and economically sustainable manner. 

Doing that will require meshing a variety of interests, prioritizing sometimes competing goals and aligning policies to make them consistent with the priorities. Section 1 of SB 1, this year’s big energy bill which was offered by the Energy Committee chairs, does this by listing the four top priorities for DEEP.

Among energy goals, for example, the state must decide among priorities that include lower cost, reduced rates, environmental benefits, energy conservation and economic development.

Natural tensions and conflicting policies and priorities in state government between energy and environmental areas have sometimes led to inconsistent and diverse administrative interpretations and outcomes. 

Businesses hope the proposed merger will help resolve many of these challenges and lead to greater certainty and predictability. Starting with a clear mission statement in the bill would help, and CBIA identified three reasons a statutory mission statement is critical to the success of the new agency. 

First, the new position of commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection will be a very powerful position with the capability of significantly impacting Connecticut’s regulatory climate, energy costs and economy.

Second, merging the DPUC and other energy-related government entities into the DEP raises concerns that "environmental benefit" will take priority over critical economic concerns, including energy costs, which will become secondary.  (One section of HB 6386 lists several specific energy goals for the new agency that largely relate to environmental concerns but absent is any mention of cost, rates, or economic impacts.)

Third, even within the current DEP, perspectives vary greatly regarding the agency’s mission and the role of each employee in achieving that mission.

It’s clear that Gov. Malloy and his newly appointed DEP commissioner, Dan Esty, share a vision for the new agency that will focus on environmental stewardship in a manner that promotes jobs, clean energy, and economic growth.  We should not miss this unique opportunity to capture those principles—in a DEEP mission statement--as standards for all future commissioners to follow. 

Drawing on the language and concepts in the existing statutory "policy of the state" regarding the environment, enacted when the DEP was created, CBIA suggests a mission statement for the new agency and urges the committee to add it to the proposed legislation:

 “It is the mission of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, working in cooperation with our partners in state, federal and local governments and with other concerned public and private individuals and organizations, to use all practical means and measures to insure society and nature mutually prosper in productive harmony for current and future generations.”

For more information, contact CBIA’s Eric Brown at 860.244.1926 or eric.brown@cbia.com.