Environment

Obama taps CLF’s Giles for EPA post

Well-known local advocate would be in charge of enforcement

COURTESY CONSERVATION LAW FOUNDATION
CYNTHIA GILES, who has led the Conservation Law Foundation’s Rhode Island office for nearly four years, has been picked by President Barack Obama for a top post in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Posted 3/19/09

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration has nominated Cynthia Giles, director of the Rhode Island office of the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) and a prominent local environmental advocate, to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

The office is responsible for ensuring that the nation’s environmental laws are followed. The position – which would make Giles one of the top officials at the EPA, reporting directly to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson – is subject to Senate confirmation.

In a statement announcing his nomination of Giles and a number of other appointees, President Barack Obama said: “I am grateful for their decision to serve, and am confident that they will be valuable additions to my administration as we work to tackle the enormous challenges ahead of us.”

The administration announcement highlighted Giles’ work on efforts to combat climate change. Since joining the CLF’s Rhode Island office in 2005, she has worked on a number of policy initiatives, including the state’s joining of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the Northeast states’ cap-and-trade program; the reform of the R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC); and various improvements to state water-management policies.

If Giles is confirmed, this will be her second post with the EPA. From 1991 to 1997, she served in a number of positions at the agency’s Region 3 office, which covers the mid-Atlantic states.

U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., a member of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, applauded Giles’ nomination.

“I have known and worked with Cynthia for years, and have seen first-hand her leadership in my state of Rhode Island on many critical environmental issues, including clean energy and climate change, water pollution and management, and state environmental agency performance,” he said in a statement.

“She knows how to get things done for our environment and public health, and she will be a great asset to the Obama administration – and the American people – to ensure that our nation’s environmental protection laws are followed,” Whitehouse added.

Before joining CLF’s Rhode Island office, Giles had served for four years as head of the Bureau of Resource Protection at the Mass. Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Earlier in her career, she had prosecuted environmental lawbreakers as an assistant U.S. attorney.

“Cynthia’s nomination to this key EPA position is great news for the environment, the public health and the rule of law,” Bill Coleman, interim president of the CLF, said in a statement. “Her leadership and skills will be greatly missed at CLF, but the same focus, tenacity, integrity that has been the hallmarks of her career will serve her well as the head of federal environmental enforcement.”

Coleman added: “Her unique mix of hard-edged litigation skill, strategic vision and compassion enabled her to serve effectively as a guardian of Rhode Island and New England’s communities and environment – and make her the perfect candidate to play that role on the national stage.”

Giles earned her bachelor’s degree at Cornell University. She also holds a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley and a master’s degree in public administration from the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) is the nation’s leading environmental enforcement agency. By imposing penalties and providing compliance assistance, the office aims to encourage governments, businesses and other regulated organizations to meet their environmental obligations. For more information, go to www.epa.gov/compliance.

The Conservation Law Foundation, founded in 1966, is a nonprofit member-supported research and public policy group established to tackle significant environmental challenges across New England. Its advocates use law, economics and science to create innovate strategies to conserve natural resources, protect public health and promote vital communities in our region. The CLF has offices in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. For more information, visit www.clf.org.

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