Trump picks Ericksen, Benton to work with EPA

Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale
Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale Washington State Legislative Sup

Whatcom County Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, has been chosen to be part of a team that will reshape the Environmental Protection Agency under President Donald Trump’s administration.

The Seattle Times reports that Ericksen and former state Sen. Don Benton of Vancouver are among 10 officials who joined the EPA over the weekend as part of a transition effort. Both Benton and Ericksen were early campaign backers of Trump.

Ericksen will act as communications director for the agency transition. Benton was named senior White House adviser supervising the EPA transition.

Ericksen said he does not intend to resign his state Senate seat – but instead will fly back and forth to do both jobs. If Ericksen were to quit, it would leave the state Senate temporarily in a tie – a Republican-led caucus now holds a 25-24 majority.

Both Ericksen and Benton have been critics of government environmental regulations.

The new roles are temporary, expected to last up to a few months, but could transition to permanent jobs in the agency. Ericksen said he doesn’t want to live in Washington, D.C., but is interested in a local role, such as leading the EPA’s regional office.

When asked in December if he was interested in the regional job, Ericksen wouldn’t say either way, as it was too early in the process. He did, however, say he thought the new administration would offer a lot of opportunities for people.

“You’re going to see regulations loosened up at the federal level, and you’ll see a lot of power turned back to the states,” Ericksen told The Bellingham Herald in December.

Ericksen has been criticized by environmentalists for being a skeptic of human-caused climate change during his tenure in the state Senate. Last week he responded to someone in a comment thread on his public Facebook page, writing that “much of the climate alarmist rhetoric is extreme and could be considered a hoax presented by these groups.”

One group of students went so far in May 2015 as to ask Western Washington University to revoke Ericksen’s master’s degree in political science and environmental policy. The university president declined and thanked Ericksen for being a friend to the university.

Others questioned Ericksen’s decision as chairman of the Senate’s Energy, Environment and Telecommunications committee to allow Don Easterbrook, an emeritus WWU professor and global warming denier, to speak for more than an hour in 2013 to the committee. Ericksen explained at the time that he thought lawmakers should be open to hearing all perspectives.

Ericksen did not return a call to The Bellingham Herald seeking comment Monday.

Samantha Wohlfeil: 360-715-2274, @SAWohlfeil

Portions of this report were taken from The Associated Press.