President-elect Donald Trump, continuing to build his Cabinet as he prepares to take office on Jan. 20, said Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, 48, would be nominated to head the Environmental Protection Agency.
Pruitt sued the EPA in a bid to undo a key regulation under outgoing President Barack Obama that would curb greenhouse gas emissions blamed for climate change, mainly from coal-fired power plants.
Pruitt's selection came despite a softer tone Trump has struck on environmental regulation since his Nov. 8 election. He has stepped back from casting climate change as a hoax, signaled he might be willing to allow the United States to continue participating in the Paris climate change deal aimed at lowering world carbon emissions, and met with former Vice President Al Gore, a leading environmental voice.
Pruitt's selection also brought a quick rebuke from Democrats.
"The head of the EPA cannot be a stenographer for the lobbyists of polluters and Big Oil," House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said of Pruitt.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman released a statement saying Pruitt was a "dangerous and unqualified choice."
"As attorney general, Scott Pruitt consistently failed to uphold his responsibility to protect our nation’s air and water, instead acting as an agent of the oil and gas industry – at the expense of the American people – every time," Schneiderman said in the statement.
Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, brushed off the criticism, praising Pruitt's record and telling reporters at Trump Tower: "We're very accustomed to the naysayers and the critics."