Politics & Government

Records show Washington state Sen. Doug Ericksen was appointed to $133,000 EPA job, but backed out

Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale) fields questions during a town hall meeting at Meridian High School in 2017. Environmental Protection Agency records show he was named to a top-ranking job in the regional headquarters of the agency but turned the job down.
Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale) fields questions during a town hall meeting at Meridian High School in 2017. Environmental Protection Agency records show he was named to a top-ranking job in the regional headquarters of the agency but turned the job down. For The Bellingham Herald

State Sen. Doug Ericksen turned down a $133,000-a-year job in the regional headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency after raising questions about how often he’d have to come to work in the Seattle office, records show.

The back-and-forth saga of whether Ericksen, a Ferndale Republican and noted climate-change skeptic, would land a prominent EPA job went on for much of the last year.

Ericksen and former state Sen. Don Benton were each named to temporary EPA jobs last year as part of the Trump administration’s transition efforts to reshape federal agencies. Both men got the jobs after running Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign in Washington state. Benton was later named head of the Selective Service System.

On Jan. 5, The Bellingham Herald reported that Ericksen would take a full-time EPA job — a story he denied, announcing he would remain in the Legislature and run for re-election.

Hundreds of pages of internal EPA emails and other records, released Tuesday under a Freedom of Information Act request, show that Ericksen indeed was appointed to a high-ranking job at the EPA Region 10 headquarters late last year.

“Congratulations! You have been selected for an appointment with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency!” read the Dec. 4 EPA letter to Ericksen, delivering the news that he’d been named “Senior Advisor to the Regional Administrator for Public Engagement.” He was to report to Region 10 Administrator Christopher Hladick and national EPA chief of staff, Ryan Jackson.

Ericksen was supposed to start work Dec. 18, but that was pushed back to Jan. 8, records show. EPA staffers prepared a security badge, computer and phone service, and discussed a public announcement. But behind the scenes, Ericksen was negotiating with Hladick on expectations for the job – including how much comp time he could earn for job travel, and how often he’d have to work in the Seattle office versus telecommuting.

In a Dec. 29 email, Hladick told Ericksen comp time was limited to 80 hours a year and that he couldn’t allow him to telecommute more than two days a week.

“I understand your predicament but I believe the needs of the position are best served having you here in the office as much as possible… feel free to give me a call to discuss,” he wrote.

Ericksen formally rejected the job Jan. 5 in an email to Hladick, saying “your vision for the position is different than how I understood the position as described to me in November of 2017… I am disappointed that the job is different than how I originally understood it as I was looking forward to the opportunity to work for the Trump Administration.”

In a Jan. 8 email, Garrett Boyle, an aide to U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, called the news of Ericksen turning down the job “good news for Hladick. And everyone over there.”

(Hladick had worked as an economic development official for the state of Alaska before being appointed EPA Region 10 administrator with Murkowski’s support.)

Boyle did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment. His Jan. 8 email was sent to local EPA spokesman Bill Dunbar, who replied to Boyle that Ericksen only passed on the job “AFTER” the Bellingham newspaper reported he’d been appointed. Dunbar said Tuesday the agency would have no comment.

In an interview Tuesday, Ericksen confirmed his concerns about having to drive to Seattle from Ferndale for the job. He said he also originally thought the job would involve more travel to do “outreach with the folks in different regions” of the state.

“It was a big decision. I wanted to make sure the job I would be taking would be right for me,” Ericksen said. He said there was no “bad blood” between him and Hladick and said he didn’t know why Murkowski’s aide made the comment about him.

In his email turning down the EPA job, Ericksen said he remained “hopeful” he could get another federal job. “I still believe that I have much to offer to the Trump Administration.” He copied Jennifer Locetta, a Trump White House official, on the message.

Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, holds a press conference Thursday to discuss his dual role as a member of the Washington State Senate and as a member of President Trump's transition team at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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