The new head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Feb. 21 that America need not choose between jobs and the environment, in a nod to the energy industry as the White House prepares executive orders that could come as soon as this week to roll back Obama-era regulation.

"I believe that we as an agency, and we as a nation, can be both pro-energy and jobs, and pro-environment," Scott Pruitt said in his first address to staff. "We don't have to choose between the two."

Critics of the agency have complained that regulations ushered in by former President Barack Obama have killed thousands of energy jobs by imposing restrictions on CO2 emissions and by limiting areas open to coal mining and oil drilling.

But Democrats, environmental advocates and many of the EPA's current and former staff worry President Donald Trump's appointment of Pruitt signals a reversal in America's progress cleaning air and water and in fighting global climate change.

Pruitt sued the agency he now leads more than a dozen times while attorney general of Oklahoma to stop federal environmental rules, and has expressed doubts about the science behind climate change.

He struck a conciliatory tone in his address, saying he would "listen, learn and lead" and that he valued civil discussion and the contributions of career staff.

Trump is expected to sign executive orders aimed at reshaping U.S. environmental policy as early as this week, the Washington Post reported. He would instruct the Department of the Interior to lift a ban on new coal mining leases on federal lands and would require the EPA to ease greenhouse-gas emissions curbs on electric utilities, according to the report.

The orders would also require the EPA to change Obama's Waters of the U.S. rule that details which U.S. waterways fall under federal environmental protection, according to the report.

The White House did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the Washington Post story.

Pruitt was confirmed by the U.S. Senate last week after contentious hearings that focused on his record as top prosecutor of oil- and gas-producing state Oklahoma.

"Pruitt has been a shill for the fossil fuel industry his entire career, and there's no reason to believe he's going to stop now," said League of Conservation Voters senior vice president Tiernan Sittenfeld.

But many Republican lawmakers view Pruitt as a refreshing change at the top of an agency they have long accused of federal overreach.

The American Petroleum Institute, an industry group, said it looked forward to working with Pruitt, the administration and Congress "on policies that will keep energy affordable, create jobs, and strengthen our economy."