Gov. Dannel P. Malloy defended Department of Energy and Environmental Commissioner Daniel Esty’s decision to intervene in a regulatory issue involving one of Esty’s former consulting clients.
“No, I don’t believe there’s a conflict of interest,” Malloy said Monday of Esty’s decision to suspend Connecticut Light & Power’s application to install 1.2 million “smart meters.“
Esty once consulted for Northeast Utilities, the parent company of Connecticut Light & Power. And news of his relationship with the company surfaced this weekend in a Hartford Courant article. Esty reported receiving $205,000 when consulting for NU from 1997 to 2005.
Malloy’s Chief of Staff Tim Bannon was asked by the governor to look into the matter. Malloy told reporters Monday that he doesn’t believe there was a conflict of interest and there’s no reason for Esty to recuse himself from matters concerning NU in the future.
“He made it clear that he had done work over a period of time and that there had been remuneration involved. I don’t personally remember the amount as such, but we fully discussed it,” Malloy said.
In July, Esty released a list of 26 companies he had done consulting for a few months into his tenure as head of DEEP, but Northeast Utilities wasn’t on that list. Esty told the Hartford Courant that he didn’t include NU because his relationship with them had ended more than five years ago.
“NU is not on my recusal list because my relationship with that company ended more than five years ago,” Esty wrote in response to a questionnaire from the Courant. “In addition, the senior managers and people I worked with at NU have all since left that company and this is an entirely new slate of personnel there with whom I had no business relationship.”
“The work I did for NU was as an individual consultant,“ Esty wrote. “I was not part of any consulting business at that time. I was working at Yale as a professor and the director of the Center for Environmental Law and Policy.”
On Aug. 30, Esty intervened in the Public Utility Regulatory Authority’s deliberations regarding the Connecticut Light & Power “smart meters”—the cost of which will be passed onto ratepayers. PURA had issued a draft decision recommending the denial of CL&P’s application to install a million “smart meters” because the expense didn’t justify the savings to ratepayers. Esty, who as commissioner of DEEP oversees PURA, intervened and asked for time to develop a policy on “smart meters” used to measure peak and off-peak electrical usage.
Malloy said Monday that he didn’t believe Esty’s intervention was inappropriate.
“There’s a reason draft decisions are released. That’s to allow for comment,“ Malloy said.
“The comment was: We would like to act in concert on one of the most important energy issues present in the United States,” Malloy said in Esty’s defense. “I believe giving consumers more information about their usage is one of the top energy issues facing our country.”
However, Malloy said hindsight is 20/20 and he’s certain Esty may not have done what he did, if he knew what kind of media attention it would attract.
“I think that if you ask Commissioner Esty if he understood what people would say as a result of what he did, whether he would have done it? The obvious answer is no, but hindsight is always 20-20,“ Malloy said.