State Sen. Doug Ericksen—a GOP leader against Democratic environmental measures—denied Monday that he is taking a job with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Northwest office as reported Friday by the Bellingham Herald.
“This is much ado about nothing,” Ericksen said at a Monday morning press conference in Olympia.
Since Donald Trump’s successful campaign for president in 2016, Ericksen’s name has constantly popped up in political circles’ gossip as a a likely appointee to an EPA job because he was vice chairman of the state’s Trump campaign.
The Ferndale Republican was the Trump administration’s interim communications chief for the EPA in Washington D.C. during the first 120 days of the president’s term in 2017. He simultaneously worked as a state senator in Olympia representing most of Whatcom County. Since his job in Washington D.C was temporary, it was legal for him to simultaneously hold two government posts on opposite coasts.
On Friday, the Bellingham Herald reported that an executive assistant at the EPA’s Northwest regional office confirmed that Ericksen was hired as an advisor to the office’s chief administrator. That office covers environmental work in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska. On Friday, Ericksen would neither confirm nor deny whether he took a job. He told the Herald to wait until Monday for an answer from him.
On Monday, he said he needed to consult with other unidentified people before providing an answer to the Herald. Also on Monday, Ericksen declined to say whether he was in discussions for an EPA job last week. An Associated Press reporter asked him why the EPA had a message-answering system set up for him. Ericksen said he did no know why that occurred.
Ericksen said he plans to run for reelection for 2018, but would not rule out taking a job in the future with the Trump administration.
Ericksen has been discussing job offers off-and-on with the Trump administration for the past year, he said. Ericksen said he wants to continue representing Whatcom County in the state senate. The liberal parts of Bellingham had been gerrymandered out of his district in 2010. Rural Whatcom county is deeply conservative. and contains two of Washington’s five oil refineries.
From 2013 to 2017, Ericksen was chairman of the Senate Energy, Environment & Telecommunications Committee, which is where House Democratic environmental measures went to die. Ericksen has been criticized for being a leading recipient of oil industry campaign contributions. When a Democrat won a special senate election last November in the suburbs northeast of Seattle, that party took control of the senate with a 25-24 edge. Consequently, Ericksen dropped from chairman to ranking minority member of the senate’s environmental committee.
Ericksen has no training nor background in environmental fields.
During his stint as chairmman, Ericksen was the GOP’s point man opposing Gov.Jay Inslee’s efforts to put limits on carbon emissions in Washington. In 2016, he introduced a bill — which went nowhere — to make it a felony for protestors to block traffic pertaining to the business they are protesting.
In 2013, House Democrats passed a bill to ban numerous toxic chemicals from children’s items and upholstered furniture. Ericksen led Senate GOP efforts to water down that bill, with House Democrats refusing to accept the watered-down version. Consequently, that legislation died.
In June 2017, Ericksen unsuccessfully tried to fast track a bill to trim a state oil spill response fund paid from oil-related taxes because he declared: “The oil industry is the most overtaxed in the state.”