(Adds reaction from Bernie Sanders, adds new byline)
By Valerie Volcovici and David Shepardson
WASHINGTON Dec 7 Donald Trump will name
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, an ardent opponent of
President Barack Obama's measures to curb climate change, as
head of the Environmental Protection Agency, a Trump transition
team official said on Wednesday, a choice that enraged green
activists and cheered the oil industry.
Trump's choice of Pruitt fits neatly with the Republican
president-elect's promise to cut back the EPA and free up
drilling and coal mining, and signals the likely rollback of
much of Obama's environmental agenda.
Since becoming the top prosecutor for the major oil- and
gas-producing state in 2011, Pruitt, 48, has launched multiple
lawsuits against regulations put forward by the agency he is now
poised to lead, suing to block federal measures to reduce smog
and curb toxic emissions from power plants.
He is also a leading figure in a legal effort by several
states to throw out the EPA's Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece
of Obama's climate change strategy that requires states to curb
In an interview with Reuters in September, Pruitt said he
sees the Clean Power Plan as a form of federal "coercion and
commandeering" of energy policy and that his state should have
"sovereignty to make decisions for its own markets."
Pruitt has also said he is skeptical of climate change. In
an opinion piece in an Oklahoma newspaper this year, he wrote
that he believes the debate over global warming is "far from
settled" and that scientists continue to disagree on the issue.
An overwhelming majority of scientists around the world say
manmade emissions are warming the planet.
The Obama administration finalized the Clean Power Plan in
2015 as a key part of meeting U.S. obligations under the Paris
Climate Agreement, an accord among nearly 200 countries to curb
global warming. Many scientists say warming is causing rising
sea levels, drought, and an increase in ferocious storms.
Trump vowed during his campaign to pull the United States
out of the Paris deal, saying it would put American businesses
at a competitive disadvantage. Since the election, however,
Trump has said he will keep an "open mind" about the climate
deal, and also met with former Vice President Al Gore, a leading
climate change activist.
Trump, a real estate magnate who takes office on Jan. 20, is
in the midst of building his administration and is holding
scores of interviews at his office in New York.
'FOX GUARDING THE HENHOUSE'
Environmental groups and former Obama officials bristled at
the choice of Pruitt, and some lawmakers, including U.S. Senator
Bernie Sanders of Vermont, said they would fight his nomination.
"Scott Pruitt running the EPA is like the fox guarding the
henhouse," said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of
Conservation Voters, which supported Trump's opponent in the
election, Democrat Hillary Clinton.
"Time and again, he has fought to pad the profits of Big
Polluters at the expense of public health," Karpinski said.
Heather Zichal, a former deputy assistant to the president
for energy and climate change under Obama, said Trump's choice
"You can meet with Al Gore on Monday, pledge to keep Teddy
Roosevelt's environmental legacy alive on Tuesday, but if you
nominate the Clean Power Act's leading opponent to head the EPA
on Wednesday, you're making an unequivocal statement about the
direction of your leadership," she said.
Sanders, who campaigned for the Democratic nomination for
president on a promise to combat climate change, said he will
"vigorously oppose" Pruitt's nomination. The EPA position must
be confirmed by a vote in the U.S. Senate.
But representatives of the oil industry, and some Republican
lawmakers, were cheered by the pick.
Scott Segal, an energy industry lobbyist at Bracewell LLP
called Pruitt "a measured and articulate student of
environmental law and policy" who helped "keep EPA faithful to
its statutory authority and respectful of the role of the states
in our system of cooperative federalism."
U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, also a climate change
skeptic, said "Pruitt has fought back against unconstitutional
and overzealous environmental regulations like Waters of the
U.S. and the Clean Power Plan; he has proven that being a good
steward of the environment does not mean burdening tax payers
and businesses with red tape."
Trump aides praised Pruitt's conservative record.
"Attorney General Pruitt has a strong conservative record as
a state prosecutor and has demonstrated a familiarity with laws
and regulations impacting a large energy resource state," one of
the aides said on a transition team briefing call on Wednesday.
(Additional Reporting by David Shepardson; Writing by Richard
Valdmanis; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Frances Kerry)