U.S. Sen. Edward Markey warned Tuesday that any effort by President-elect Donald Trump to roll back renewable energy regulations will face fierce opposition from a newly galvanized environmental movement.
The Massachusetts Democrat said he's particularly concerned about the Republican president-elect's nominees for secretary of state — Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson — and director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt.
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Tillerson is a lifelong oil executive with deep ties to Russia. Pruitt has questioned the science of global warming and sued the EPA over plans to limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.
Markey said he feared Republican control of the White House and Congress could spark efforts to roll back tax breaks for solar and wind energy and curb clean water or clear air regulations. In Massachusetts alone, he said, there are 100,000 people employed in the renewable energy sector.
Markey said he was also concerned about Trump's pick to run the Energy Department — former Texas Gov. Rick Perry. When he was a candidate for president in 2011, Perry pledged to eliminate the department. Perry also sits on the boards of two petroleum companies.
Markey called the appointments "a big oil all-star team."
"President Trump has not named a Cabinet," Markey told reporters during an afternoon press conference. "President Trump is naming a cartel to be the leaders of energy and environment policy in the United States."
Markey sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and vowed to put Tillerson under "very tough, close questions" when he comes before the committee, especially about potential conflicts of interest with Russia.
Markey said Democrats are going make sure public health is at the top of the priorities they are going to fight to protect under a Trump administration.
While Democrats are in the minority in Congress, Markey said he's hopeful they'll be able to peel off some Republicans to fight attempts to curb environmental regulations.
Asked if those efforts to resist changes to environmental laws could include lawsuits or protests, Markey said, "All of the above."
"Republicans historically have underestimated the power of the environmental community in the United States," Markey said. "We are going to see a level of activism in the environmental movement that we have never seen before."