Environmental advocate named to help with creation of DEEP

Jessie Stratton, a long-time legislator turned environmental advocate has been named to help formulate policy as the state merges environmental and energy regulation under one department.

Monday was Stratton’s first day as director of policy development for the DEP – a job she will continue with the new Department of Energy and Environment, once legislation is passed to create it.

The creation of that new department is precisely the point of her hiring.

“I am working in the commissioner’s office to help him on policy integration and planning as the DEP plans how to bring the whole energy area into the department,” she said as she headed home Monday evening.

Stratton said her role would be to help make that integration of energy and environment as complimentary and non-conflicting as possible across the new department’s anticipated three main areas: environmental quality, environmental conservation and energy policy and then become the point person for insuring those roles stay complimentary.

DEP Commissioner Dan Esty said Stratton “is considered by many to be one of the most talented people in the state when it comes to energy and environment.” He said she would have a major role in helping shape policy.

“Recognizing energy and environmental issues are deeply intertwined, they sometimes are pulled in same direction, sometimes they’re in tension,” he said. “How best to achieve multiple goals across a range of issues is not always easy to reconcile.”

Esty said Stratton has a great capacity to connect with a wide array of parties and stakeholders on those issues — legislators, environmental groups, the business community, clean energy groups and more.

The two met during the Malloy transition, when Stratton co-chaired the environmental policy transition team. Esty said as it became clear he would be the DEP commissioner, he began surveying people about who he ought to bring in.

“No name came to me more often than Jessie Stratton,” he said.

Stratton, 64, was a state representative from Avon and Canton from 1989 through 2003 who served on the environment committee for her entire tenure, for 10 of those years as its co-chair. During that time her imprint was prominently on the energy deregulation legislation in 1998 in which she created the Clean Energy and the Energy Efficiency Funds.

She also was instrumental in the overhaul of inland wetland regulations. She helped revamp the remediation process for environmentally contaminated land. And she helped establish the first nitrogen trading program to help clean up Long Island Sound.

After leaving the legislature, she worked briefly for the Connecticut Fund for the Environment and since 2006, as director of government relations at Environment Northeast. The nexus of air quality and energy has been her advocacy passion.

Charles Rothenberger of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, who along with other energy and environment advocates worked with Stratton often, called her a very effective advocate. He said he’d “love it if she was still on the front lines,” but her new position “can only be good for the issues we all care about.

“It’s a fantastic thing from my perspective,” he said. “Jessie knows energy issues inside and out.

“I think it’s a great having individuals inside the administration that really understand the issues, are very insightful and have a mature viewpoint.”

Stratton said she was excited to be working with so many people she’s known through her roles as a legislator and as an advocate for years, adding at her first meeting Monday, there was only one person in the room she hadn’t already met.

“What is exciting is to take whatever experience and perspective and wisdom I gained in those two other roles and apply them here,” she said. “It’s a pretty cool opportunity.”