WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday (Dec 15) formally announced that Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke, a former Navy Seal commander and a proponent of coal development on federal lands, as his choice for secretary of the interior.
If the Senate confirms Zinke, he will head the Interior Department, which employs more than 70,000 people across the country and oversees more than 20 per cent of federal land, including national parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite.
As a single-term Republican US Representative, Zinke took several stances favouring coal, a fossil fuel that suffered during the administration of President Barack Obama as use of natural gas and renewable energy soared.
Zinke, 55, pushed to end a moratorium on federal coal leases on public lands by 2019, saying it had resulted in closed mines and job cuts.
He also helped introduce a bill expanding tax credits for coal-burning power plants that bury carbon dioxide emissions underground to fight climate change, a measure supported by coal interests and some moderate environmental groups.
In introducing the bill, Zinke said he wanted to keep "coal, oil and gas communities viable for generations to come."
Zinke would replace Sally Jewell, who in January put a temporary ban on coal mining on public lands, cancelled leases for drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic coasts, expanded wildlife protections and cracked down on methane emissions from industry.