The man behind the decision to pull out of the Paris agreement

Story highlights

  • Small non-profit played a major role in Trump's climate agreement decision
  • Myron Ebell served as the head of Trump's EPA transition team

Washington (CNN)Myron Ebell hadn't met President Donald Trump until Thursday at the White House following the President's decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord.

But Ebell, the head of Trump's Environmental Protection Agency transition team, likely had as much influence shaping Trump's decision as any single individual.
    As director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a non-profit policy center that was in favor of withdrawing from the Paris agreement, Ebell had direct and indirect influence that might have helped change the political and environmental direction of the US.
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    Following news that Trump was waffling on whether or not to uphold his campaign promise of withdrawing the US from the pact, Ebell's CEI put out a TV ad with video montages of Trump promising to do just that during the election.
    Speaking to CNN, Ebell said the point was to remind the President what promises he had made to his voters -- and Ebell believes it worked.
    "There's a large wing of people who probably identify as part of the 'basket of deplorables' in the Trump administration and there are a bunch of people who are much more comfortable identifying as part of the swamp," Ebell said. "So there was a debate, a real debate in the White House and in the Cabinet. So we just wanted to remind the president which side he's on."
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    Ebell is proud of what his relatively unknown group has been able to accomplish. But exactly who funds CEI is a mystery.
    A review of IRS forms shows several large individual donations, including one for more than $1.5 million, and others for hundreds of thousands of dollars each. The non-profit is not required to identify its donors, and when asked by CNN, Ebell declined to say where his organization's money comes from.
    "It's a small organization. We have been very persistent. We haven't given up. And I think we have, to a large extent, finally prevailed through the actions of President Trump and his administration," Ebell said.
    Ebell, though not a scientist, has emerged as one of the world's foremost climate deniers.
    A few months before the Paris pact entered its final stage in 2015, he wrote in a blog post that President Barack Obama's "Clean Power Plan" was "illegal" and lamented the gains likely to be incurred by "renewable energy producers" at the expense of coal and natural gas.
    Activists have called Ebell a "climate criminal," and he has said that climate change is "phony" and a bogus "pretext for expanding government."
    He suggested in an action plan during the transition that Trump rescind six Obama-era executive orders aimed at curbing climate change and regulating carbon emissions. Trump followed those suggestions after taking office.