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Staunch EPA opponent takes helm of Senate's top oversight panel

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Sen. John Barrasso plans to pass "badly needed reforms to problematic EPA regulations." (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

A staunch opponent of President Obama's environmental agenda was formally made the head of the Senate environment committee Wednesday.

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., was unanimously elected to head the Environment and Public Works Committee, which has direct oversight over the Environmental Protection Agency. The agency is a top target of the Republican-led Congress and President-elect Trump.

"Over the past eight years, a runaway Environmental Protection Agency has time and again issued cumbersome regulations that have limited job creation and energy development," Barrasso said. "Our committee will work closely with the next administration to remove these obstacles to economic growth, while protecting the environment."

Barrasso doggedly opposed Obama's agreeing to the Paris climate change accord without Senate consent. He later tried to rescind the State Department's authority to send millions of dollars to the United Nations' Green Climate Fund, which is a key program under the Paris deal meant to direct $100 billion per year by 2020 to help developing nations cope with the effects of climate change.

Barrasso said the committee's "early" priorities will be:

  • Confirming Trump nominee Scott Pruitt as administrator of the EPA.
  • Pass "badly needed reforms to problematic EPA regulations issued over the past eight years."
  • Finding ways to "better empower rural communities by addressing aging roads, bridges and dams."