Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) gestures during his victory speech at the Republican watch party Tuesday in Oklahoma City. (Sue Ogrocki/AP)

Sen. James M. Inhofe, an the Oklahoma Republican who once compared the Environmental Protection Agency to the Gestapo, is likely to lead the Environment and Public Works Committee when the GOP takes control of the Senate next year.

If approved, Inhofe would replace Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), an avowed environmentalist, producing one of the most stark post-election changes in the Capitol. Committee assignments will not be made until Senate party caucuses meet in Washington after the election recess.

Inhofe, who has served in the Senate for two decades, is an iconic figure to both environmental and energy lobbyists. He chaired the committee from 2003 to 2008, when Republicans controlled the Senate. Inhofe, a former congressman and mayor of Tulsa, came to Washington to do battle with federal bureaucrats, particularly those at the EPA who he said threatened the energy industry in his home state.

In his 2012 book, “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future,” Inhofe describes himself as a lonely crusader against an environmental-liberal conspiracy. “First I stood alone in saying that anthropogenic [man-made] catastrophic global warming is a hoax,” he wrote.

Shortly after becoming chairman of the committee in 2003, Inhofe took issue with the theory that increasing carbon dioxide emissions causes catastrophic disasters. “Actually,” he said, “global warming can be beneficial to mankind,” leading to improvements in the environment and the economy.

The book lays out his belief that the EPA needed to be constrained. Its regulations, he wrote, have long threatened the U.S. economy, a situation that has only grown more severe in recent years, as the Obama administration and its allies on the left perpetuate the myth of man-made climate change — and propose an executive branch initiative to address the problem.

“The Obama EPA is set to implement the most aggressive regulatory regime in history,” he wrote, criticizing the agency’s plan to regulate carbon emissions. “Global warming alarmists,” he wrote, “are set to destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs and significantly raise energy prices for families, businesses and farmers, basically anyone who drives a car, uses heavy machinery, or flips a switch.

Many Republicans, including the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, share his skepticism of the EPA and its plan to address carbon emissions, which became apparent in 2009. That year, the agency issued a finding that greenhouse gas emissions linked to global warming endanger the public’s health and welfare. Subsequently, the agency told industrial facilities — such as power plants and oil refineries that require permits to emit sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide — to account for greenhouse gas emissions if they expand or add construction that significantly increases greenhouse gas pollution.

Republican lawmakers, with energy-sector allies, argued that the rules would damage U.S. manufacturers’ ability to compete against companies operating in countries with less stringent standards.

Inhofe was among the most aggressive of the critics, warning that the U.S. economy would be placed at risk.

In addition to attacking the EPA regulatory scheme, he has been among the most outspoken critics of climate scientists, calling attention in 2010 to the disclosure of e-mails and documents at the Climate Research Unit at Britain’s East Anglia University that discussed the alleged twisting of some data and conclusions.

Inhofe has called for congressional action to limit EPA regulations on clean water, saying the agency exceeded its authority and tramples on the rights of states.

His reelection, and the arrival of several new Republicans, will increase the number of Senate critics of environmental regulation, including those who have been urging approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. For example, in Colorado, Republican Rep. Cory Gardner defeated Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, who had voted against the project.

Scott Segal, an energy lobbyist at Bracewell & Giuliani law firm in Washington, said of the potential committee assignment: “While activists are not happy about it, they have to admit that Senator Inhofe ran a fair committee with open hearings and respect for minority viewpoints. . . . Inhofe will put the administration through its paces. But he will do it with respect.”