Rep. Ryan Zinke, the nominee for Interior secretary, told senators at his confirmation hearing the incoming administration would renew its commitment to fossil fuel development, including clean coal. He emphasized this would not happen at the expense of the environment, saying he strongly supported ongoing research and development into a broad array of energy, noting coal was “part of that mix.”

The Montana congressman and former navy seal reaffirmed President-elect Donald Trump’s commitment to restoring coal country, an industry decimated by President Obama’s “war on coal.” Zinke held the war was real, and that part of an all-of-the-above energy approach includes using clean coal.

“I’m a great believer in research and development on coal…to make it cleaner and better,” he added.

While some believe America’s coal-fired plants are the largest source of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, it’s actually much cleaner than most Americans realize. Because coal-fired plants use advanced scrubbers, what comes out of the smokestacks is largely water vapor and CO2. Soot and particulates are captured at the source. And CO2 emissions are only marginally higher than natural gas-fired plants.

‘Climate is changing’

When asked about climate change by senate Democrats, Zinke noted the climate is changing and not a hoax.

“That is undisputable as well,” Zinke added. “Where there is debate is what the influence is and what we can do about it.” He proffered that the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), an arm of the Interior department, should do “objective” global warming science to clear up the debate.

That caused Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to shoot back “there is no debate.” John Barrasso (R-WY) told Fox News on Wednesday that senators like Sanders, who focus only on climate change during the hearings, is one of the reasons Democrats continue to lose state and federal elections.

They aren’t listening to their constituents and are using the confirmation hearings as theater for their base.

Obama’s legacy

To bolster Obama’s climate legacy, the Interior Department has expanded and created sprawling national monuments, cordoned off millions of acres of land from exploration and drilling like the Arctic and Atlantic Ocean, designated swathes of public land for wind power and solar energy, and halted new coal leases.

They have also seized vast amounts of land from states and turned them into federally controlled national parks.

Zinke remarked he would work with states so they have more input if the government chooses to place land under federal control. He maintained that fixing America’s crumbling infrastructure in national parks would also be a high priority. Zinke reiterated he is absolutely against the sale of public lands by the federal government and would rather give it back to the states that want it.