RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Syria has asked to join the Paris climate change agreement, which means the United States is the only member state of the U.N. that is against the accord. This further isolates the Trump administration from the rest of the world on climate issues. And it comes on a day when the Senate is considering the president's pick to advise him on environmental policy, a former Texas regulator who questions climate change. Here's Mose Buchele of member station KUT.
MOSE BUCHELE, BYLINE: If appointed to the president's Council on Environmental Quality, Kathleen Hartnett-White would coordinate environmental policy across the administration. But since her nomination, some controversial statements she's made have been circulating on YouTube, like this one of her promoting her recent book "Fueling Freedom."
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KATHLEEN HARTNETT-WHITE: The book has all kinds of examples of the really beneficial impacts of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.
BUCHELE: CO2, of course, is a major contributor to global warming, but Hartnett-White suggested that climate regulation is a conspiracy pushed by communists. She's called renewable energy unreliable and parasitic. And she really, really likes fossil fuels.
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HARTNETT-WHITE: Fossil fuels are the remains of life - plant and animal life.
BUCHELE: Here she is in an interview with a Christian television station in Oregon last year.
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HARTNETT-WHITE: They come back, through burning them, to amplify our lives - to do work that we otherwise would have to do ourself.
BUCHELE: In fact, she's even said fossil fuels helped lead to the end of slavery, and she's called CO2 the gas of life.
JIM MARSTON: You know, she's not a scientist.
BUCHELE: Jim Marston directs the Environmental Defense Fund in Texas. In 30 years there, he's butted heads with a lot of officials. He says Hartnett-White stands out for her unusual opposition to regulations.
MARSTON: And I say unusual - no matter what the standard was, whether it's with regard to smog or mercury or global warming, she was against it.
BUCHELE: She'd likely disagree. From 2001 to 2007, she was top regulator at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. She's not giving interviews since her nomination, but when I spoke to her several years ago, she said she supported regulations, just not at the expense of growth and that industry is actually essential to a healthy environment.
HARTNETT-WHITE: Environmental regulators almost entirely don't know about every technological means that you might be able to do this or do that. Industry does know that. They're the ones that develop the emission-control technology and methods of using it that still allow even some growth but yet emissions are reduced.
KEVIN ROBERTS: Regulation gets in the way of human flourishing.
BUCHELE: That's Kevin Roberts of Texas Public Policy Foundation. It's an influential conservative think tank where Hartnett-White directs the energy and environment program.
ROBERTS: And Kathleen has a wonderful track record of being an excellent spokeswoman when it comes to placing an emphasis - when it comes to regulation - on how humans can benefit, how humans can flourish rather than have their lives intruded upon.
BUCHELE: Roberts didn't want to comment on some of Hartnett-White's more controversial statements, but critics say if she's confirmed to the White House post by the Senate, she'll make others in the Trump administration look moderate by comparison. For NPR News, I'm Mose Buchele in Austin.
(SOUNDBITE OF PORTICO QUARTET'S "BEYOND DIALOGUE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.