(Updates with confirmation from Trump transition official)
By Ginger Gibson and Valerie Volcovici
WASHINGTON Dec 9 U.S. President-elect Donald
Trump will pick U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a
climate-change skeptic and an advocate for expanded oil and gas
development, to run the Interior Department, a Trump aide said
The appointment could mean easier access for industry to
more than a quarter of America's territory, ranging from
national parks to tribal lands stretching from the Arctic to the
Gulf of Mexico, where energy companies have been eager to drill
The pick, criticized by environmental groups, dovetails
neatly with the Republican president-elect's promises to bolster
the U.S. energy industry by shrinking the powers of the federal
It follows Trump's nomination this week of an another
climate change skeptic and critic of federal regulations,
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, to run the Environmental
The official on Trump's transition team, speaking on
condition of anonymity, told Reuters that Trump would nominate
McMorris Rodgers to head the Interior Department, which is
charged with the management and conservation of federally owned
land and administers programs relating to Native American
McMorris Rodgers, a congresswoman from Washington state and
the fourth most senior member of the House leadership, voted for
the Native American Energy Act. Democratic President Barack
Obama vetoed the bill, which would have made it easier to drill
on tribal territories, in 2015.
On her website, she also touts her support of the recent
repeal of the decades old ban on oil exports, and for a bill to
reject the EPA's Waters of the United States Act as some of her
key achievements on energy and environment.
She has consistently opposed Obama's measures to fight
climate change, and once argued that former Vice President Al
Gore, a longtime advocate for steps to combat global warming,
deserved an "F" in science and an "A" in creative writing.
The League of Conservation Voters, which publishes a score
card ranking the environmental record of each member of
Congress, gave McMorris Rodgers a zero in its most recent
ratings. It was among several environmental groups that
criticized her likely nomination.
"Donald Trump just posted a massive 'for sale' sign on our
public lands," the LCV said in a statement.
Eric Washburn, an energy lobbyist and former advisor to
Senate Democrats Harry Reid and Tom Daschle, said McMorris
Rodgers had the experience to do a good job balancing the
interests of energy development and conservation.
"She certainly knows all these interests and hopefully will
be able to chart a course for the agency that allows for
conservation and development to proceed hand in hand," he said.
Efforts to reach McMorris Rodgers were not immediately
TRUMP'S DEREGULATION DRIVE
McMorris Rodgers has been a member of the House/Senate
energy conference committee, working to pass bipartisan energy
legislation that included provisions to boost hydropower and
update forest policy. In her role as interior secretary, she
would oversee more than 70,000 employees.
Trump, a real estate magnate who takes office on Jan. 20, is
in the midst of building his administration and is holding
scores of interviews at his office in New York.
On Thursday he announced Pruitt as his pick for the EPA,
cheering the oil industry but enraging environmental groups and
Democratic lawmakers who vowed to fight the appointment.
As the top prosecutor for Oklahoma, a major oil and gas
producing state, Pruitt has sued the EPA repeatedly, and is part
of a coordinated effort by several states to block Obama's Clean
Power Plan to limit carbon dioxide emissions.
Trump vowed during his campaign to undo Obama's climate
change measures and pull the country out of a global accord to
curb warming agreed in Paris last year, saying they put American
businesses at a competitive disadvantage.
Since the election, however, Trump has confused observers by
saying he will keep an "open mind" about the Paris deal, and
also meeting with Gore to discuss the issue.
(Reporting by Ginger Gibson, David Shephardson and Valerie
Volcovic; Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Frances