Politics Blog

Ericksen to conservative media: Schools feed climate activists ‘propaganda’

Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, had a response Tuesday, May 12, for students who would have his Western Washington University degree revoked.

He felt sorry for them.

In an interview Tuesday, May 12, on a Freedom Foundation podcast called “Freedom Daily,” Ericksen blamed the universities and public schools for feeding students “a line of propaganda” that has made them into partisan climate activists.

“I really feel sorry for these young people, in our colleges and our public schools today because they’re being fed such a line of propaganda, and it’s such a heavily partisan atmosphere,” Ericksen said in the podcast, hosted by Ron Valencia of the Freedom Foundation — a “nonpartisan political think and action tank dedicated to individual liberty; free enterprise; and limited, accountable government.”

“I’m not sure how universities or public schools think that’s going to benefit these kids in the long run,” Ericksen said. “It’ll take a few years for them to sort out the, ‘Huh, what they were telling me at Western, what I heard in my high school, maybe that’s not so accurate.’ I think it’s a disservice to the kids also, to put them through that.”

Valencia, the interviewer, raised the issue with Ericksen at the end of their 27-minute interview, which otherwise ranged over the major issues in this year’s legislative sessions and where they stand now. The questions and Ericksen’s responses on the WWU students who want to petition the administration to strip Ericksen’s degree start at the 25-minute mark.

“They are Western students so I guess they can do whatever they want,” Ericksen said initially. “I’ve tended to ignore it. It’s not a serious issue. I think there’s three of them up there who have been advocating for this. It is what it is. You can respect their right to have their opinion.”

Ericksen on Thursday, May 7, declined to comment to the Politics Blog after it received word that the three students — Emily Krieger, Evelyn Kennedy and Chiara D’Angelo — were holding a meeting that evening to discuss how to approach the administration on its request. Ericksen’s 1995 master’s degree in political science and environmental policy undermines the credibility of their degrees, the students have said.

“Sen. Doug Ericksen is welcome to have whatever political views he wants, but by misinforming the public on the science of climate change, he is undermining the credibility of our own degrees and reflecting poorly on the caliber of education students receive here,” the students wrote in a statement on Tuesday, May 12, to the Politics Blog.

Ericksen was willing to say, in the main legislative session this year, that humans may be contributing to climate change. But he also has cited studies that contradict the prevailing scientific determination that fossil-fuel burning is causing global temperatures to increase. Mainstream scientists have discredited the studies refuting human-caused climate change. (See also here.)

Then again, the only thing worse than mainstream scientists might be the mainstream media, in Ericksen’s view.

Ericksen in the podcast touted his Senate Bill 5735, which passed the Senate in early March, that would provide opportunities for utilities to invest in carbon-reduction programs, such as electric-car charging stations, to meet their obligations under Initiative 937. The initiative sets a bar utilities must reach for renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. Ericksen’s bill would add the other carbon-free investments as options.

“Those Republicans aren’t nearly as scary as mainstream media tries to make them out to be, when it comes to issues like the environment and education,” Ericksen said, referring to two policy areas he said Republicans have taken meaningful action on this year.

While the Senate Republicans were able to pass a carbon-reduction bill, the Democrats in the House did not pass Gov. Jay Inslee’s carbon cap-and-trade legislation, which would charge the biggest carbon polluters in the state for emitting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Three of the state’s biggest carbon polluters reside in Whatcom County: BP Cherry Point, Phillips 66 refinery and Alcoa Intalco Works.

Ericksen called Republicans’ success with a carbon-reduction bill, juxtaposed with the Democrats’ failure, “the great irony.”

Democrats in the House introduced a substitute version of Inslee’s Carbon Pollution Accountability Act that will get a hearing today, Thursday, May 14. Touted by Democrats as friendlier to the industries that would be hit by the carbon fees, and certain other industries including forestry, the revised cap-and-trade plan didn’t impress Ericksen. He called it “socialistic.”

“It’s a bad bill that has gotten worse it would appear, based on politicians doing what politicians do — Democrats at least — which is take money from one group of people and then redistribute it out to other groups to win their support and their favor.”

Ericksen wouldn’t venture an opinion on Inslee’s carbon bill in interviews with The Bellingham Herald, but he made it clear to the Freedom Foundation that he didn’t like it, and it would have a hard time passing the Senate — if it even gets there.

“I don’t think it would be a good thing for Washington state,” Ericksen said. “I think it would have a pretty heavy uphill battle in the Senate to be passed into law.” He said nonetheless he would give the Democrats’ carbon bill a full hearing in the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee, which he chairs.

Another thing Republicans in the Senate have accomplished this year that House Democrats haven’t yet is to put together a funding package for statewide transportation improvements. The Senate around March 1 passed a 11.7-cent gas tax to help pay for $15 billion in transportation projects. Ericksen voted against the transportation bill because he wants to see reforms in the labor laws — which in his view lead to excessively high wages — speedier environmental reviews and elimination of sales tax on highway projects.

The state isn’t getting its money’s worth on transportation projects, Ericksen said.

“Once you take that vote to pass the taxes, all of the pressure goes away to reform anything in Washington state and it goes back to business as usual,” Ericksen said.

“There’s incredible pressure from certain business groups on Republican legislators to pass this tax package increase on transportation,” he added. “Unfortunately, many of these industries say, ‘Well you know what, Sen. Ericksen, we would love to see those changes you’re talking about. We don’t believe it’ll ever happen, so just raise the taxes. We’ll waste some money but we’ll get some roads built.’”

Ericksen said “the odds are definitely better than 50 percent” that a transportation package makes it out of the Legislature this year.