Environment concerns mount over Trump's pick of energy industry advocate as Interior Secretary

WASHINGTON - Environmental groups' worries have been compounded by reports that US President-elect Donald Trump is set to nominate Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a climate-change sceptic and an advocate for more oil and gas development, to oversee America's public lands, waters and endangered species.

The reported imminent nomination of Mrs Rogers, a Republican Congresswoman, as Secretary of the Interior Department is seen as the last straw, environmentalists say.

''It's hard to imagine a worse scenario than this,'' Mr Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Centre for Biological Diversity, told The Straits Times.

''Trump has produced the most anti-environment list of appointees in modern history; he makes Ronald Reagan look like an environmentalist.''

Mrs Rogers reportedly counts the oil, gas and logging industries among her top 10 political campaign contributors, and has a consistent record of voting against environmental protections. 

Hopes stirred by an unexpected meeting last week between Mr Trump and former vice president and global warming whistle blower Al Gore, that Mr Trump may soften his ''climate change is a hoax'' position, were short-lived. 

But ''the good news is we're a nation of laws so there's a limit to what he (Trump) can do'' Mr Suckling said.

''My group is staffing up attorneys to prepare to haul the Donald Trump administration to court every time it violates an environmental law or the constitution; it will be an intense and ugly legal war but it will be necessary.''

The Centre for Biological Diversity is not alone; other environmental groups are gearing up as well. 

News of Mrs Rogers's imminent nomination came the same week that Mr Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s Attorney General, was nominated to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 
 
Mr Pruitt has a record of litigation against the EPA itself, and is close to fossil fuel interests. Mr Ken Cook, head of the Washington-based Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy organisation, told the New York Times: ‘’It’s a safe assumption that Pruitt could be the most hostile EPA administrator toward clean air and safe drinking water in history.’’
 
On Friday the Washington Post reported that Mr Trump’s transition team had issued a list of 74 questions for the Energy Department, asking agency officials to identify which employees and contractors had worked on international climate pacts and domestic carbon reduction. 
 
Meanwhile reports, quoting unnamed transition officials, said 54-year-old Rex Tillerson, chief executive of Exxon Mobil Corp, one of the world’s biggest corporations, had emerged a front runner among candidates for the post of Secretary of State. 

Mr Suckling said environmental organisations were asking supporters to get together to hold rallies in 18 cities in January against the incoming administration's environmental agenda, and would ''converge on Washington DC'' at the time of the inauguration on Jan 20.