New York (AFP) - President-elect Donald Trump announced on Thursday he had tapped Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, criticized as a climate change denier and a staunch fossil fuel ally, to head the Environmental Protection Agency.
"For too long, the Environmental Protection Agency has spent taxpayer dollars on an out-of-control anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs, while also undermining our incredible farmers and many other businesses and industries at every turn," Trump said in a statement.
It was the property mogul's formal confirmation of reports Wednesday of Pruitt's pick, which drew outrage from Trump opponents.
Pruitt "will reverse this trend and restore the EPA's essential mission of keeping our air and our water clean and safe," the billionaire businessman said.
"My administration strongly believes in environmental protection, and Scott Pruitt will be a powerful advocate for that mission while promoting jobs, safety and opportunity."
Opponents, however, said Pruitt is anything but an environmental advocate, pointing out that he has spent much of his time as Oklahoma's top law enforcement official battling the very agency he is now being nominated to lead.
They described Pruitt as a spectacularly poor choice to lead the fight to protect America's natural resources.
"Scott Pruitt has spent the past several years fighting tooth and nail to help polluters erase or circumvent the critical environmental protections our nation has put in place," said Steny Hoyer, the number two Democrat in the House of Representatives, in a statement released Wednesday, as news of Pruitt's nomination began to circulate.
- 'Freedom for American businesses' -
"To put him in charge of the very agency he has worked to undermine is an affront to all Americans who care about the health of our air and water and the very real threat we face from climate change," Hoyer said.
Pruitt's own official biography highlights his role as "a leading advocate against the EPA's activist agenda," and in the past he has sued the EPA on behalf of Oklahoma utilities.
Nevertheless, Pruitt, 48, said he is eager to take up his new post.
"I am deeply grateful and honored to serve as President-elect Trump's EPA Administrator," he said in the statement released by the transition team in New York City.
"The American people are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our economy due to unnecessary EPA regulations, and I intend to run this agency in a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses."
Republicans have long argued that President Barack Obama's administration, through the EPA, has imposed burdensome environmental regulations such as anti-pollution measures on US corporations, many in the name of fighting climate change.
Trump, who scored a surprise win in this year's presidential election, campaigned this year vowing to curtail or terminate such regulations.
The EPA chief also has a strong impact on US actions to combat climate change: the agency both determines what international commitments the country is able to make, and implements the measures.