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The Gristle

Beachhead

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

BEACHHEAD: To the victors go the spoils of war.

Sen. Doug Ericksen went out on a limb last May, bringing Republican candidate Donald Trump to Lynden for a rally. That rally cost local taxpayers $155,000, with Whatcom County agencies alone on the hook for more than $129,000 and no way to recover the loss. But it was a great success for Ericksen, who received his reward this week:

The agency he has railed most strongly against is now his to lead.

Ericksen was named as part of the “beachhead team” to take over at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Energy & Environment News reported this week. He is joined by former state Sen. Don Benton of Clark County, another booster of Trump in Washington.

It’s an interesting term, a military term for defended position taken from the enemy by landing forces, from which an attack can be launched. And in its sxpression, this means war.

The beachhead teams will lay the groundwork for the new administration’s policies and serve as White House representatives until Cabinet officials are confirmed and bigger teams dispatched. At energy and environmental agencies, the teams are largely composed of Trump campaign officials and aides who assisted him during the interim between his election and inauguration as president.

Benton will serve as the senior White House advisor on the team, effectively its chief, while Ericksen will serve as communications director for the team.

Benton, who served in Washington’s Senate from 1997 until last year, is known for “self-confidence, at-times bombastic rhetoric and a willingness to get into political brawls,” The Seattle Times reported. Trump and Benton bonded when Trump visited Washington state last May, and they shared a McDonald’s lunch.

“I had a Filet-O-Fish and he had a Big Mac,” Benton told the newspaper.

An ardent critic of Agenda 21, an obscure non-binding resolution of the United Nations signed when George Bush Sr. was in office (that produces mysterious storms in the brains of movement conservatives), firebrand Benton helped fire up the crowd for Trump at an August rally at Xfinity Arena in Everett.

Appointing Benton to head an environmental agency, the Seattle Times editorial board wrote, was “like using a paper shredder to edit a document.”

Ericksen currently chairs the state Senate’s Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee, where he has been remarkably effective in highjacking state initiatives to address the public costs of the fossil fuel industry, whether stalling action on climate change, rail safety or efforts to move the state to a more sustainable energy profile. The Whatcom County Republican is also the Legislature’s third-largest recipient of political contributions from fossil fuel companies.

When he’s not working directly for his largest political contributors, Ericksen sponsors bills that are perhaps best understood as wedge issues—they generate heat but little light on both sides of the aisle, while polishing his bona fides among local conservatives. Among these are efforts to criminalize forms of protest such as those seen in Bellingham over the weekend, described as “economic terrorism” against local commerce; as well as a series of constitutional amendments introduced to further ensnare and paralyze the Legislature as they work through issues like the funding of public education. And, yes, Ericksen opposed allowing transgender people access to the bathrooms that match their gender identity, introducing a bathroom bill last year.

None of these wedge actions have gone anywhere, and serve instead to tie up time and resources in committee, burning up the legislative clock so those resources cannot be applied to productive work.

Ericksen said he intends to keep both jobs, working in both Washingtons. But he may in fact be headed for a larger federal role that is incompatible with his duties as a representative of the state and district.

So while the nation may suffer from the sorts of dynamiting of federal environmental policy that we can expect from the Trump team, the appointment may signal an opportunity for Ericksen to move on. Getting him a better job could end with Whatcom getting a better, more productive representative in Olympia—and for all that, we wish him well!

EPA’s beachhead team is tasked with laying out an action plan for the agency for slashing budgets and regulations. Among key initiatives to stop are greenhouse gas rules for new and existing power plants, automobile standards, and the so-called Waters of the U.S. rule—a technical document that defines which rivers, streams, lakes and marshes fall under the jurisdiction of EPA and, ominously, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The plan also calls for an executive order “barring EPA from overruling federal/state regulatory/permit decisions unless in clear violation of established law.”

Cherry Point could well be the first beachhead in a short war to strip away recent public wins concerning the use of state aquatic lands for the export of fossil fuels.

In the most recent gutting of the EPA’s role, the Trump administration this week ordered the agency to halt all contracts, grants and interagency agreements pending a review, according to reports.

“Basically,” an EPA staff member told Reuters, “no money moving anywhere until they can take a look.”

The EPA awards billions of dollars worth of grants and contracts every year to support programs around environmental testing, cleanups and research. It was unclear if the freeze would impact existing contracts, grants and agreements or just future ones.

We’ve written before of regulatory capture, a form of government failure that occurs when an agency created to act in the public interest, instead advances the commercial or political interests of the industry or sector it is charged with regulating. The Trump administration seems to intend to take this to an entirely new level, stripping away even the pretense that the agency reflects some public purpose while folding up the tent and setting fire to the campsite.

Doug may have a new job, but at a smaller and much impoverished operation.

SVCR Vanessa
Past Columns
Monopoly

March 15, 2017

Layers of Concern

March 8, 2017

The Fix Is In

March 1, 2017

Half Time

February 22, 2017

Washington v. Trump, 2

February 15, 2017

Washington v. Trump

February 8, 2017

Between East and West

February 1, 2017

Stormin’ ORMA

January 18, 2017

Stormwater Rising

January 11, 2017

Knockout Blows

January 4, 2017

Continental Divide

December 28, 2016

Auld Lang’s Decline

December 21, 2016

A tale of two commissions

December 14, 2016

Jack’s Attack

December 7, 2016

Lawless

November 30, 2016

Forever Protecting

November 23, 2016

YOYO vs. WITT

November 16, 2016

REDMAP

November 2, 2016

Civil War

October 26, 2016

Events
Today
Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest

8:00am|Whatcom County

Avenue Q

7:00pm|Brodniak Hall

The Little Mermaid

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

Spanish Storytime

10:30am|Lynden Library

SICBA Home & Garden Show

12:00pm|Skagit County Fairgrounds

Not Just for Kids

12:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Studio Sale and Concert

3:00pm|Cooper Lanza Gallery

Food Not Bombs

4:00pm|Downtown Bellingham

Vintner Dinner

5:30pm|Great Blue Heron Grill

Live Souls

7:00pm|Village Books

Always…Patsy Cline

7:00pm|Conway Muse

Godspell

7:00pm|BAAY Theatre

Friday Night Flicks

7:00pm|Van Zandt Community Hall

The 25th annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

7:00pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Men are from Mars—Women are from Venus

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Against All Odds

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

MBT HBIII Bellingham Farmer’s Market
Tomorrow
Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest

8:00am|Whatcom County

Avenue Q

7:00pm|Brodniak Hall

The Little Mermaid

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

SICBA Home & Garden Show

12:00pm|Skagit County Fairgrounds

Godspell

7:00pm|BAAY Theatre

The 25th annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

7:00pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Always…Patsy Cline

7:00pm|Conway Muse

Men are from Mars—Women are from Venus

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Against All Odds

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Native Plant Walk

8:00am|Deception Pass State Park

Lynden Breakfast

8:00am|Lynden Community Center

Ferndale Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Hall

Land Trust Work Party

9:00am|Fenton Nature Reserve

Composting and the Soil Food Web

9:00am|Garden Spot Nursery

Native Plant Sale & Expo

9:00am|Whatcom Community College

Sumas Writers Group

10:00am|Sumas Library

Trail Work Party

10:00am|Stones Throw Brewery

Bham Fam Fair

10:00am|Bellingham Sportsplex

Final Winter Trail Run

10:00am| BBMX Park

Rock & Gem Show

10:00am|Bloedel Donovan Community Center

Fairhaven Plant and Tree Sale

10:00am|Hillcrest Chapel

Growing Table Grapes

10:30am|Cloud Mountain Farm Center

My Brother's Battle Fundraiser

12:00pm|Legendary Chucklenuts

Emergency Preparedness

12:00pm|Ferndale Library

Upcycling with Ragfinery

1:00pm|Lynden Library

Tax Help

1:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Mount Baker-Fidalgo Youth Symphony

1:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Thirst No More

2:00pm|Lynden Christian High School

Art Talk with Lisa McShane

4:00pm|Smith & Vallee Gallery

Skagit Land Trust Auction

5:00pm|Swinomish Casino & Lodge

Interfaith Coalition's HOPE Auction

5:30pm|Four Points by Sheraton

In Defense of Food

6:00pm|North Fork Library

Spring Equinox Night Prowl

6:30pm|Squires Lake

Contra Dance

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Geoffrey Castle's Celtic Celebration and Fundraiser

7:30pm|Kennelly Keys

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Sunday
Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest

8:00am|Whatcom County

Avenue Q

7:00pm|Brodniak Hall

SICBA Home & Garden Show

12:00pm|Skagit County Fairgrounds

Godspell

7:00pm|BAAY Theatre

The 25th annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

7:00pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Rock & Gem Show

10:00am|Bloedel Donovan Community Center

Goose Rock Hike

9:00am|Goose Rock

Sound/Counterpoint

3:00pm| St. Paul's Episcopal Church

Whatcom Symphony Orchestra with Christopher Guzman

3:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Never Let You Go

4:00pm|Village Books

Art of Jazz

4:00pm|The Majestic

Keola Beamer and Jeff Peterson

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

see our complete calendar »

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