WASHINGTON (CN) - President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency.
Trump's selection of Pruitt came on a day of significant appointments for the president-elect and his transition team. Also announced Wednesday was the selection of retired four-star Marine Gen. John Kelly as the next secretary of homeland security, and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad as ambassador to China
As for Pruitt, the self-described "leading advocate against the EPA's activist agenda," has close ties to the fossil fuel industry, as revealed in a New York Times investigation in 2014 that showed Pruitt had an "unprecedented, secretive alliance" with energy company leaders and other Republican attorneys general.
Lawyers for Oklahoma energy company Evron Energy even drafted a letter Pruitt sent to the EPA that was critical of the agency's emissions estimates on drilling sites in the state, the New York Times found in the investigation.
Pruitt was also one of two dozen attorneys general to bring the Obama administration to court over its Clean Power Plan, the president's landmark climate initiative that regulates new and existing power plants among other provisions.
Pruitt's appointment meshes with Trump's campaign trail opposition to Obama's efforts to use the EPA to help curb climate change. Trump has claimed in the past that global warming is a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese government and has been roundly critical of the Clean Power Plan and other environmental initiatives.
Pruitt was elected as Oklahoma attorney general in 2010 and describes himself as "a national leader in the cause to restore the proper balance of power between the states and federal government" in his official biography.
Before serving as attorney general, Pruitt served for eight years in the Oklahoma State Senate.
Climate groups sounded the alarm as news leaked out Wednesday that Pruitt would be Trump's pick to lead the EPA.
"We all rely on the Environment Protection Agency to enforce our clean air and clean water laws to keep us safe from toxic pollution," Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen said in a statement. "The leader of this agency should respect the importance of our bedrock environmental laws, be guided by science to make informed decisions and, above all, place the health of our families and communities above corporate profits.
"Scott Pruitt poses none of these values," Van Noppen continued. "He has long opposed responsible rules for cutting toxic pollution, including the EPA's Clean Power Plan, and he's been in lockstep with the oil industry for years."
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders also released a statement, saying, "At a time when climate change is the great environmental threat to the entire planet, it is sad and dangerous that Mr. Trump has nominated Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA.
"Mr. Pruitt’s record is not only that of being a climate change denier, but also someone who has worked closely with the fossil fuel industry to make this country more dependent, not less, on fossil fuels," Sanders continued. "The American people must demand leaders who are willing to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels. I will vigorously oppose this nomination."
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