Christine Stuart photo
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Thursday nominated Robert Klee, an environmental scientist and lawyer, to head the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Klee, 39, who has been Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Daniel C. Esty’s chief of staff for the past three years, said that he was in school for a long time, but was always drawn to the “combination of environmental science and law and policy.”

He made the comments Thursday at a press conference in the DEEP’s fifth-floor auditorium, which was filled with the agency’s employees.

Klee said he got the best of both worlds and was able to get experience working as a lawyer with Wiggin and Dana, where he specialized in appellate work and environmental law, and bringing that back to his environmental passion. That’s why he said being Esty’s chief of staff was the “best job I’ve ever had.” He admitted he will probably have to revise that statement now that he’s been nominated commissioner.

Christine Stuart photo
Klee’s nomination will still need to be approved by the legislature.

Esty was on Klee’s PhD committee at Yale and when Esty was first appointed in February 2011 to commissioner, Klee emailed him to congratulate him. Klee said Thursday that Esty emailed back and a few months later he was his chief of staff.

Klee will take over on Feb. 3 when Esty returns to Yale, which extended his sabbatical a year at the request of the governor.