Robert Klee Yale World Fellows
Robert Klee
Robert Klee Yale World Fellows

Robert Klee, a Yale-educated environmental lawyer and policy expert now serving as chief of staff to Commissioner Daniel C. Esty, will succeed Esty as the leader of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, sources say.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s office confirmed that he intends to announce Klee’s appointment at a press conference Thursday afternoon at the department’s headquarters down the hill from the State Capitol.

Esty, an expert on energy policy who oversaw the expansion of the old Department of Environmental Protection into an agency that re-shaped the state’s approach to the procurement of electricity, is returning to the Yale faculty after a three-year leave of absence.

Klee brings a varied background in science, law and public policy.

He received a bachelor’s degree from Princeton in geology and earth science in 1996, then a master’s degree in environmental management in 1999 from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

From 1999 to 2005, he had overlapping tenures as a student at Yale Law School and its School of Forestry. He was granted a law degree in 2004 and a doctorate in environmental science and policy in 2005.

After clerkships with U.S. District Judge Mark R. Kravitz and Judge Barrington D. Parker of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, he joined the New Haven law firm Wiggin & Dana as an appellate attorney.

At Wiggin & Dana, he was a member of its practice groups on Energy, Climate Change and Sustainable Development.

Esty hired him as his chief of staff in April 2011.

Administration officials and environmentalists declined comment, deferring to the governor’s announcement at 3:15 p.m.

Despite his stellar resume, Klee was an under-the-radar choice in some respects. He’s widely seen as a good manager and knowledgeable on all aspects of the department.

But in the week since the announcement that Esty would be leaving, those who work with the energy and environmental sides of the department had largely broken into two camps, with the energy side pushing for Deputy Commissioner Katie Dykes and the environment side pushing for Deputy Commissioner Macky McCleary.

The choice of Klee can be seen as satisfying both of them. He has been part of broad policy work on all fronts, not just an administrator. He also has experience working with legislators on environmental policy and legislation, generally drawing high marks.

Related: As Esty exits, some worry, some hope

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