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.

Past Columns
Crisis In Court

June 9, 2021

A Community of Color

May 26, 2021

Grand Slam

May 12, 2021

Carbon Pricing Reality

April 28, 2021

Third Time’s A Charm

April 14, 2021

Salmon Need Water

March 31, 2021

Mid-Point

March 17, 2021

Carbon Pricing

March 3, 2021

‘Stop The Steal’

February 17, 2021

Camp 210

February 3, 2021

A capricious flower

January 20, 2021

‘More Work To Do’

January 6, 2021

Pathways for Pathogens

December 23, 2020

Make A Difference

December 9, 2020

Down to the Wire

November 25, 2020

Blue Wave 2020

November 11, 2020

Dark Deeds

October 28, 2020

Fire and Water

October 14, 2020

Defining Family

September 30, 2020

Smoke and Acrimony

September 16, 2020

Tuesday
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Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

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11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

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“Unmasked: Imagining New Beginnings” will show from 11am-4pm Tuesdays through Saturdays June 4-26 at Allied Arts, 1418 Cornwall Ave. The exhibit features two-dimensional ceramic art from…

An Artist's Universe at Hotel Bellwether

9:00am

View painter and mixed-media master David Syre’s latest installation, “An Artist’s Universe,” hanging throughout the corridors, lobby and dining room of Hotel Bellwether and the Lighthouse…

Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

Unmasked WACK Exhibit

11:00am

“Unmasked: Imagining New Beginnings” will show from 11am-4pm Tuesdays through Saturdays June 4-26 at Allied Arts, 1418 Cornwall Ave. The exhibit features two-dimensional ceramic art from…

An Artist's Universe at Hotel Bellwether

9:00am

View painter and mixed-media master David Syre’s latest installation, “An Artist’s Universe,” hanging throughout the corridors, lobby and dining room of Hotel Bellwether and the Lighthouse…

Vast Exhibit

10:00am

View the rotating landscape show “Vast” from 10am-5pm Fridays through Sundays through June 27 in Edison at Smith & Vallee Gallery, 5742 Gilkey Ave. As pieces from the multi-artist show sell,…

Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

Julie Paschkis at i.e.

11:00am

View new works by Seattle artist Julie Paschkis from 11am-5pm Fridays through Sundays through June 27 in Edison at i.e. gallery, 5800 Cains Court. The pieces combine gouache, ink, cut paper,…

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11:00am

See works by 16 regional artists at a “Spring Has Sprung” exhibit from 11am-5pm Fridays through Sundays (and by appointment) through June 27 on Camano Island at Matzke Fine Art Gallery and…

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9:00am

From 9am-3pm, stop by the Twin Sisters Farmers Market’s Nugents Corner Market in the parking lot of the Bluebird Building, 3833 Mt. Baker Hwy. From 10am-3pm, the Kendall Market will take…

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10:00am

Stop by the Lummi Island Saturday Market from 10am-1pm in the field next to the Islander Grocery, 2106 S. Nugent Rd. The market will feature produce, art and good works from island nonprofits…

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10:00am

The Concrete Saturday Market takes place from 10am-1pm at the Concrete Community Center, 45821 Railroad Ave. The longtime event continues Saturdays through Sept. 4. COVID-19 protocols will be…

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11:00am

For the final week, see “Origins and Evolutions: Five Generations” from 11am-4pm Tuesday through Thursday, and 11am-4pm Sat., June 26 at Gallery Syre, 465 Stuart Rd. The show gathers together…

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6:00pm

Pianist Paul Klein plays from 6pm-8pm every Tuesday in the Tap Room at Boundary Bay Brewery, 1107 Railroad Ave. From 6pm-8pm Wednesdays, Aaron Guest takes a turn at the piano. For now, Klein…

Wednesday
Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

An Artist's Universe at Hotel Bellwether

9:00am

View painter and mixed-media master David Syre’s latest installation, “An Artist’s Universe,” hanging throughout the corridors, lobby and dining room of Hotel Bellwether and the Lighthouse…

Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

Unmasked WACK Exhibit

11:00am

“Unmasked: Imagining New Beginnings” will show from 11am-4pm Tuesdays through Saturdays June 4-26 at Allied Arts, 1418 Cornwall Ave. The exhibit features two-dimensional ceramic art from…

An Artist's Universe at Hotel Bellwether

9:00am

View painter and mixed-media master David Syre’s latest installation, “An Artist’s Universe,” hanging throughout the corridors, lobby and dining room of Hotel Bellwether and the Lighthouse…

Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

Unmasked WACK Exhibit

11:00am

“Unmasked: Imagining New Beginnings” will show from 11am-4pm Tuesdays through Saturdays June 4-26 at Allied Arts, 1418 Cornwall Ave. The exhibit features two-dimensional ceramic art from…

An Artist's Universe at Hotel Bellwether

9:00am

View painter and mixed-media master David Syre’s latest installation, “An Artist’s Universe,” hanging throughout the corridors, lobby and dining room of Hotel Bellwether and the Lighthouse…

Vast Exhibit

10:00am

View the rotating landscape show “Vast” from 10am-5pm Fridays through Sundays through June 27 in Edison at Smith & Vallee Gallery, 5742 Gilkey Ave. As pieces from the multi-artist show sell,…

Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

Julie Paschkis at i.e.

11:00am

View new works by Seattle artist Julie Paschkis from 11am-5pm Fridays through Sundays through June 27 in Edison at i.e. gallery, 5800 Cains Court. The pieces combine gouache, ink, cut paper,…

Spring Has Sprung Exhibit

11:00am

See works by 16 regional artists at a “Spring Has Sprung” exhibit from 11am-5pm Fridays through Sundays (and by appointment) through June 27 on Camano Island at Matzke Fine Art Gallery and…

Twin Sisters Farmers Markets

9:00am

From 9am-3pm, stop by the Twin Sisters Farmers Market’s Nugents Corner Market in the parking lot of the Bluebird Building, 3833 Mt. Baker Hwy. From 10am-3pm, the Kendall Market will take…

Lummi Island Saturday Market

10:00am

Stop by the Lummi Island Saturday Market from 10am-1pm in the field next to the Islander Grocery, 2106 S. Nugent Rd. The market will feature produce, art and good works from island nonprofits…

Concrete Saturday Market

10:00am

The Concrete Saturday Market takes place from 10am-1pm at the Concrete Community Center, 45821 Railroad Ave. The longtime event continues Saturdays through Sept. 4. COVID-19 protocols will be…

Origins and Evolutions Farewell

11:00am

For the final week, see “Origins and Evolutions: Five Generations” from 11am-4pm Tuesday through Thursday, and 11am-4pm Sat., June 26 at Gallery Syre, 465 Stuart Rd. The show gathers together…

Mary Bly in Conversation with Meg Tilly

12:00pm

From 12pm-1pm, tune in for “Mary Bly in Conversation with Meg Tilly” on Zoom. Bly—who has been celebrated as “the thinking woman’s romance writer” in the Washington Post—will share her new…

Rainbow Reads

3:00pm

Students in grades 6-12 can join Whatcom County Library System for virtual “Rainbow Reads” discussions from 3pm-4pm every Wednesday on Zoom. Do you love reading and stories with LGBTQIA+…

An Evening with Stacey Abrams and Cari Champion

4:00pm

Livestream “An Evening with Stacey Abrams and Cari Champion” from 4pm-5pm on Zoom as they discuss the urgency of voter suppression and how to empower citizens to use their power to shape the…

Rachel Michelberg and Cami Ostman

6:00pm

At 6pm, join Village Books for a virtual conversation between Rachel Michelberg and Cami Ostman on Zoom. The two will discuss Michelberg’s new book, Crash: How I Became a Reluctant…

Piano Nights with Paul Klein and Aaron Guest

6:00pm

Pianist Paul Klein plays from 6pm-8pm every Tuesday in the Tap Room at Boundary Bay Brewery, 1107 Railroad Ave. From 6pm-8pm Wednesdays, Aaron Guest takes a turn at the piano. For now, Klein…