DEEP picks head of greenhouse gas agency for key position

The head of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the nation’s first carbon emissions trading and reduction program, has been named to a key position in the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Jonathan Schrag will become deputy commissioner in charge of DEEP’s energy division, a key component of the newly-constituted agency and one with a long to-do list from the legislation that established it.

Schrag is already known to insiders in the state’s energy and environment hierarchy through RGGI, where he was executive director for the last three years, implementing the emissions allowance and auction system.

In addition to the experience of building a new energy program from scratch, his time at RGGI also introduced Schrag to the political caldron of energy politics in the Northeast. Schrag found himself a target for conservative groups that disliked RGGI, and he had to handle the fallout of New Jersey’s decision to pull out of the 10-state compact, of which Connecticut has been one of the more enthusiastic members.

In hiring Schrag, DEEP Commissioner Dan Esty said in a statement to employees that he “brings to his new position in-depth expertise and experience on energy issues, with a particular focus on how to harness market forces, tap entrepreneurial spirit, and use economic incentives to promote cleaner and cheaper energy.”

Prior to RGGI, Schrag, 41, founded an energy consultancy firm and worked at energy institutes at Columbia University. He is a graduate of Harvard University.

In a phone call from New York where he presently lives, Schrag said his decision to come to Connecticut was based on “first, Governor Malloy and Dan Esty’s commitment to cleaner and cheaper energy. And second, Connecticut’s longstanding history and culture of innovation.” That, he said, is “how you achieve cleaner and cheaper.”

He also echoed Esty on how business and clean energy development go hand in hand: “Government doesn’t have all the answers,” he said. “The private sector needs to be part of the picture.”

Reporting to Schrag will be Kevin DelGobbo who heads the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, formerly the Department of Public Utility Control, which became part of DEEP in the reorganization. Tracy Babbidge, who is the interim head of the Bureau of Energy and Technology Policy, also will report to Schrag.

Schrag’s appointment follows the announcement that Macky McCleary has been named deputy commissioner for environmental quality. He replaces Amey Marrella who left the agency after returning to that position. She had also held it before becoming the commissioner of the old Department of Environmental Protection towards the end of M. Jodi Rell’s administration.

McCleary, 34, a Yale graduate in architecture, had been with McKinsey and Co., a global management consulting firm and has expertise in the area of green building.