It won’t save much money his budget director says, but Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced late Tuesday evening that he will be consolidating the Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Public Utility and a small energy division inside the Office of Policy and Management.
Essentially the consolidation creates two new bureaus: the Bureau of Energy Policy and Efficiency and the Bureau of Utilities Control. These new bureaus will be housed inside the Department of Environmental Protection, as sort of a new third division.
“Merging these two functions under one leader will allow the state to act cohesively in two vitally important and directly related policy areas, particularly in terms of economic development, siting, permitting and other issues,” Malloy said in a press release. “Under this new agency, we will better integrate and coordinate our state’s energy and environmental policy in order to strengthen our ability to protect the environment; to clean, conserve and lower the cost of energy; and to set the table for rapid and responsible economic growth.”
Ben Barnes, Malloy’s budget director, said Tuesday that the consolidation folds a Department of Energy into the Department of Environmental Protection, which will maintain its Environmental Quality and Environmental Conservations divisions.
“We don’t have a dollar number, but it’s not going to save a lot of money,” Barnes said. However, it will string together energy policy in a more effective and efficient manner and strengthen the state’s energy planning.
Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Southport, said he’s only seen the press release, but “at first blush there are things I like about it.” Years ago the Republicans proposed an independent Energy Agency, but that was when the state had money. Currently it’s facing a $3.67 billion budget deficit.
He said currently the state has no planning body for energy policy with the exception of about a dozen people inside the Office of Policy and Management. He said on its face the proposal makes sense and hopes the planning function will help lower the state’s high energy rates.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” McKinney said. But he hopes this is not the last of Malloy’s consolidations.
Barnes said he can’t reveal which other state agencies may be consolidation, but admitted that there will be more on the horizon as the budget document is finalized. He said there will be savings from the consolidation of a few administrative positions.
Jessie Stratton, the former chairwoman of the Environment Committee and director of government relations for Environment Northeast, said that the merger of the two agencies is an exciting proposal and something her organization has been proposing to Malloy since day one.
She said the proposal demonstrates Malloy’s deep understanding of the nexus between the environment and energy. She said it also shows he’s willing to be a leader on the issue of energy, where other governor’s have fallen short.
Chris Phelps, executive director of Environment Connecticut, said this could be a very positive move.
“It shows that that the governor clearly gets the connection between environmental and energy policy and that he’s willing to take bold action,” he said. “Implemented well, this could be a huge step towards our state getting serious about energy policy that breaks our dependence on increasingly expensive, polluting fuels like oil and increasing our use of renewable energy and energy efficiency.”
But it’s not completely original.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick combined that states energy and environmental agencies under one cabinet secretary about a year ago.
Malloy’s newly created and consolidated agency will be called the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and it’s unclear at the moment who he will choose to lead that agency.
In the past Malloy has said he was conducting a national search for the Environmental Protection commissioner. Barnes said he doesn’t know whom Malloy will pick to lead the new agency.