Robert Klee, a lawyer who served as chief of staff to Dan Esty, will take over as the new commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
Klee has a law degree and a Ph.D. from Yale's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He formerly served as a law clerk on both the Second Circuit and the District of Connecticut before joining Esty at DEEP in 2011.
Esty announced last week he was resigning to teach at Yale, which gave him a three-year leave. Esty's last day is Feb. 3.
Senator Ed Meyer is the chair of Connecticut's Environment Committee. He said Klee and Esty share a common background. "Both of them are attorneys. Both were on the faculty of Yale's school of forestry, both are strong environmentalists," Meyer said.
Meyer said he hopes Klee is able to expand staffing levels at DEEP. "The environmental part of that agency has been static for years," he said. "The appropriations for that agency and the amount of staff is basically the same as it was when the agency was created in 1976. The affect of that lack of growth has been that the agency has been very slow in environmental permitting. Its lost a lot of it's ability to enforce our environmental laws and standards in Connecticut."
During his tenure, Dan Esty said he worked to reduce regulatory burdens on businesses and pursue cheaper and cleaner energy. One of those clean energy programs is the state's push for more natural gas, which has caught the ire of both environmentalists opposed to fracking and workers in the home oil-heating business.
During an interview last week, Esty said his successor will be challenged with making those long-term energy goals a reality. Another issue, Meyer said, will be examining staffing levels at state parks. "Our new commissioner, Rob Klee, has actually -- I'm told -- visited with his family, more than 60 of our state parks. And our state parks are in a little trouble," Meyer said.
A legislative committee was briefed yesterday on how Connecticut's state parks and forests are funded. They're reviewing whether resources have been adequate to support the short-and long-term operational needs of the state's parks and forests, which cover roughly eight percent of the state.
According to Yale, Klee was an associate world fellow in 2003. Dan Esty was World Fellows Director from 2002 to mid-2007.