***Cynthia Giles is no longer at the University of Chicago***
By Eric Lipton and Danielle Ivory
The Trump administration has released data showing a large increase in penalties against polluters, as well $20 billion in commitments from companies to correct problems that have caused environmental damage.
“A strong enforcement program is essential to achieving positive health and environmental outcomes,” Susan Bodine, head of the enforcement division at the Environmental Protection Agency, said in a statement on Thursday.
The data from the E.P.A. represented activity during the government’s 2017 fiscal year, which ended on Sept. 30, meaning the totals included the final three and half months of the Obama administration, when some of the E.P.A.’s biggest cases were settled. The data also reflected cases that were resolved during the Trump administration but had been initiated and largely handled under President Obama.
Cynthia Giles, who was the assistant administrator for the E.P.A.’s enforcement office during the Obama administration, said the data released Thursday should not be interpreted as the Trump administration being tough on polluters.
“Nearly all of the large cases included in E.P.A.’s annual enforcement report were essentially over before the new administration arrived at E.P.A.,” said Ms. Giles, who had reviewed The Times’s analysis. “Without an unprecedented disavowal of an already negotiated and public agreement, there is nothing Administrator Pruitt’s team could have done to change the outcome. In no sense do these cases reflect the intentions or actions of the new administration.”