"A strong enforcement program is essential to achieving positive health and environmental outcomes," Susan Bodine, head of the agency's enforcement division said in a statement.
However, analyses show that the penalties against polluters are significantly lower under President Trump's EPA. According to The Hill, that $1.6 billion figure is roughly a fifth of the $5.7 billion in penalties collected the year before under President Obama's EPA.
In addition to that, the Scott Pruitt-led agency is also taking credit for the previous administration's enforcement efforts. The EPA 2017 enforcement report covers the federal fiscal year from Oct. 1, 2016 to Sept. 30, 2017, meaning the final tally covers three and half months of the Obama administration, "when some of the E.P.A.'s biggest cases were settled," as the New York Times observed.
Steven Chester, the deputy assistant administrator in EPA's compliance office from 2011 to 2014 told The Hill that he is concerned about the drop in litigation and enforcement and its consequences for the environment.
"My big concern is that if there isn't a viable threat of litigation and enforcement, if there aren't an appropriate number of lawsuits or complaints brought, that you lose that deterrent effect—and if you rely too heavily on compliance assistance you are going to end up with more non-compliance," he said.
Chester said that the most noticeable change in the 2017 enforcement report was the drop in the EPA's recommendations to the Justice Department (DOJ) to prosecute polluters, from 152 the year before to 110 now.
"Those numbers tell you what's in the pipeline and what's going to be in the pipeline in future years," Chester said. "Those might not look like big numbers but these are huge numbers because these are cases referred to DOJ, these are cases that DOJ is going to fine."
The move comes after regional authorities declared a state of emergency over the weekend after sightings of more than 50 bears in the town of Belushya Guba since December.
This year's letter from Bill and Melinda Gates focused on nine things that surprised them. For the Microsoft-cofounder, one thing he was surprised to learn was the massive amount of new buildings the planet should expect in the coming decades due to urban population growth.
"The number of buildings in the world is going to double by 2060. It's like we're going to build a new New York City every month for the next 40 years," he said.