HOUSTON (AP) — A former top New Mexico environmental official has been appointed head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency region that includes some of the nation's biggest oil- and gas-producing states.

Ron Curry will assume his post Monday. He succeeds Al Armendariz, who resigned in April after Republicans lambasted him for using the word "crucify" to describe how he would go after companies that violated environmental laws.

Curry was Cabinet Secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department from January 2003 thru December 2010 under then-Gov. Bill Richardson. He will head the region headquartered in Dallas that oversees Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.

The environmental group Public Citizen welcomed Curry's appointment, saying he was well-liked by businesses and environmental groups when he oversaw the New Mexico regulatory agency.