Interior nominee: President has power to amend, maybe remove, monument designation

Introducing himself as an "unapologetic admirer of Teddy Roosevelt", Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) told lawmakers considering his confirmation as the next secretary of the Department of Interior (DOI) that he believes climate change is real, a significant departure from President-elect Donald Trump. "I don't know the specifics of that review", Zinke said.

He served in the Montana state senate from 2009 to 2011 when he was an outspoken advocate for clean energy and combatting climate change.

President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for interior secretary will kick off this week of confirmation hearings, and he's expected to face tough questions on climate change and the use of public lands from both sides of the aisle.

Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Tuesday that climate change is not a hoax, that climate is changing and "man is an influence". "I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities". He reverted to the classic not-a-scientist logic we've heard from his colleagues before.

"We need an economy".

On his next question, Sanders asked if Zinke believes drilling for fossil fuels should be allowed on federal lands, an issue which has become a hot button for environmentalists who say that all such activity must be halted if the U.S.is to meet emission reductions in accord with the worldwide climate treaty that was signed past year by President Obama.

Zinke, a former Navy SEAL commander and an avid hunter and angler, emerged as a surprise pick to head the department in part because he has embraced federal stewardship of national parks, forests and refuges.

"Of course, Congressman Zinke, you are not responsible for this", Murkowski said.

Zinke is a Republican congressman from Montana who was elected to his second term representing the Treasure State in November.

Zinke said he would visit with Utah officials and the community affected by the Bears Ears monument and, upon his return, make a recommendation to Trump on what action he should take.

He did not comment directly on whether he would seek to reverse Obama's federal coal-lease ban, but said he believed coal plays an important part in the US energy mix.

In his first question, Sanders asked Zinke if Trump is correct when he posits that climate change is a "hoax". Zinke added that "man has had an influence-I think that is undisputable as well".

Read Zinke's prepared opening statements here.

He also reiterated his commitment to keeping federal lands under federal control to ensure they are preserved for future generations, so "my granddaughter's children can look back and say that we did it right".

  • Audrey Hill