President Donald Trump's choice to run the Environmental Protection Agency says he does not believe global warming is the "greatest crisis."
Andrew Wheeler said at his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday that while climate change is a "huge issue," it is something that needs to be addressed globally.
A report by the EPA and several other government agencies concluded last year that climate change is a man-made phenomenon that will cost the U.S. billions of dollars a year and lead to more wildfires, stronger hurricanes, and other weather-related calamities.
Wheeler, who has been acting EPA chief since July, said he has not read the report but that a staffer briefed him on it.
He said the news media jumped on what he calls the report's "worst-case scenarios."
Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey responded by saying Wheeler's policies easing federal regulations on fossil fuel emissions are the problem.
"You are a former coal industry lobbyist that is sitting here. That's the worst-case scenario, what you are proposing here. ... You are putting up a smokescreen to ensure there is an advancement of Donald Trump's dirty policies," Markey said.
Other Democrats wondered if Wheeler's job pushing pro-coal polices in Congress should disqualify him.
They also said his actions as acting EPA chief, including moves to roll back mileage standards for cars and trucks and lifting federal protection for wetlands and waterways, undermine the health and safety of the American people.
Wheeler's Republican defenders praised him. They said federal regulations are a burden on industry, farmers and ranchers, and could cost jobs. They said they agree with Wheeler that states should take on much of that responsibility.
Wheeler said easing federal rules can still mean Americans can have clean air and water while the economy thrives.
Protesters yelling "Shut down Wheeler, not the EPA," briefly interrupted Wednesday's hearing.
Wheeler was deputy EPA head when he took over the agency from Scott Pruitt, who was forced to resign last year over alleged ethics violations.