14/12/2016 12:17 PM AEDT | Updated 15/12/2016 2:45 AM AEDT

It's Hard To Overstate How Anti-Environment Donald Trump's Cabinet Picks Are

"President-elect Trump is creating a government of, by, and for the oil and gas industry," one advocate said.

Daniel Kramer/Reuters
Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson was Trump's choice for secretary of state.

WASHINGTON ― Rex Tillerson at the State Department. Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency. Rick Perry at the Department of Energy. Jeff Sessions at the Department of Justice.

If environmentalists found themselves in some kind of paralyzing hypnagogia on Nov. 9, the day they realized that there was no waking up from this was Dec. 13.

Tillerson is the CEO of Exxon Mobil, a company that spent decades and millions of dollars supporting climate change denial and is currently under investigation for doing so. Tillerson has personally argued that climate change is no biggie because “we will adapt to this.” If he’s confirmed as secretary of state, he will be in the position of deciding whether the U.S. stays involved in the Paris climate agreement and whether to approve massive international oil pipelines like Keystone XL.

Pruitt is the attorney general of Oklahoma and has described himself as “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.” He is currently suing the EPA ― the agency he could lead ― to stop the Obama administration’s regulatory effort to curb emissions from power plants, and he was caught letting oil industry lawyers draft letters to regulators on his behalf.

Perry, the former Republican governor of Texas, is expected to be nominated to lead a department whose name he once famously forgot while pledging to eliminate it. He has said that climate change is just a “theory that remains unproven” and that climate scientists have “manipulated data to keep the money rolling in.” A few years ago, Perry’s top environmental officials in Texas removed all mentions of climate change from a report on rising sea levels in Galveston Bay. There are already signs that the Trump team wants to undertake a climate purge at the Energy Department; transition officials sent a questionnaire to the department last week, asking for the names of employees who had worked on the issue.

There’s also Sessions, who as the country’s top law enforcement official, would oversee both enforcement of environmental regulations and the government’s defense against legal challenges to those rules. The Alabama senator regularly recites the talking points of climate change deniers, dismisses the overwhelming consensus among climate scientists that global warming is caused by human activity, and once suggested that addressing climate change is a conspiracy against the world’s poor.

It’s clearer than ever that Donald Trump is hoping to install the most anti-environmental cabinet in our nation’s history.Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters

The Washington Post and Politico reported Tuesday evening that Trump will pick Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) to lead the Department of Interior, another important slot for environmental issues. Interior’s purview includes public lands, such as national parks, wildlife refuges and the outer continental shelf, as well as endangered species and tribal affairs. The freshman member has said that selling off public lands is a “non-starter,” but he also thinks that climate change is “not proven science.”

Environmental groups are, understandably, not psyched about these picks.

“With these nominations, it’s clearer than ever that Donald Trump is hoping to install the most anti-environmental cabinet in our nation’s history,” said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, in a statement. Trump’s Cabinet picks would promote “a polluter paradise that is completely at odds with public support for protecting our air, water, lands and wildlife,” Karpinski said.

“President-elect Trump is creating a government of, by, and for the oil and gas industry,” stated Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Never before have we seen such a concentration of extreme wealth and privilege in a single cabinet.”

Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, called Trump’s Cabinet “a nightmare for the planet, and the fossil fuel industry’s dream come true.”

“Trump’s picks represent a who’s who of climate-deniers and fossil fuel hacks with devastatingly long records of assaulting our environment, proving that his head fakes to keep our air and water clean are nothing but cons,” said Brune. 

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