Legislative Accomplishments of Sen. Doug Ericksen

Sen. Doug Ericksen

Jan. 28, 1969 – Dec. 17, 2021

Legislative accomplishments

Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, who died Friday at age 52, was a Whatcom County native who maintained strong ties to his community and region throughout his life. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Cornell University, and was a 1995 graduate of Western Washington University, where he earned a master’s degree in degree in political science and environmental policy. He began his legislative career while still in college, working in the office of Sen. Ann Anderson, whose seat he later held. He ran for the state House of Representatives from Whatcom County’s 42nd Legislative District in 1998, and held the position for six terms. In 2010, he moved to the Senate. He chaired the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee from 2013 to 2017, and served as ranking Republican member following a change in Senate majority. In 2017, he served on the transition team for President Donald Trump as interim director of communications at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Throughout his career, Ericksen was a champion for the rights of the individual and the freedoms guaranteed by the state and federal constitutions. Fearless in the face of opposition, Ericksen was one of the Legislature’s strongest voices for fiscal responsibility, relief from the burdens of high taxation, boundaries on government overreach, preservation of Washington’s clean-and-affordable energy advantage, jobs and industrial development outside the Central Puget Sound metropolitan area, and pragmatic and balanced solutions to the state’s biggest environmental problems.

He is survived by his wife Tasha, and two daughters, Addi and Elsa.

Legislative accomplishments include –

  1. The first bill addressing climate change to pass either chamber of the Legislature – SB 5735 (2015) – Ericksen’s legislation modified Initiative 937, which requires utilities to invest in alternative energy sources regardless of need or practicality, and permitted them to meet the initiative’s requirements by investing in carbon-reduction programs instead. Though the measure passed the Senate on a caucus-line vote, the measure met with opposition from organized environmental groups. Debate on the Senate floor was sidetracked by partisan opponents who wished to add an intent section, and the measure died in the House.
  2. A sensible approach to cleanup of contaminated industrial sites – SB 5296 (2013) – Washington voters in 1988 funded state hazardous waste cleanup efforts by creating a Hazardous Substances Tax on fuel and other products. Over time, the state Department of Ecology diverted funds to other programs favored by environmental groups, citing a flowery intent section as its authority. When gas prices began falling in 2009, so did tax collections, and the backlog of delayed cleanup projects became immense. Environmental groups argued for increases in the tax. Ericksen’s legislation took a different tack, establishing that cleanup projects get first priority for funding, and creating the state Environmental Legacy and Stewardship Account. Ericksen’s legislation sped cleanup projects across the state, and helped enable the revitalization of former industrial properties on the Bellingham Bay waterfront.
  3. A smooth phase-out of state incentives for small solar installations – SB 5939 (2017) – State incentives for home and community solar installations were due to expire in 2017. Ericksen sponsored legislation to extend the program and phase it out smoothly. Under the program, $110 million was distributed to homeowners and community organizations. Legislative auditors recently reported that it spurred installation of 7,337 solar systems and created 1,519 jobs. The program achieved its purpose, they concluded, and the program could be allowed to sunset.
  4. Oil-train safety – SB 5057 (2015) – Ericksen was instrumental in negotiating the oil-train safety bill of 2015, which passed that year in the form of HB 1449. The measure balanced safety concerns with the practical need to get tanker cars to the refineries of Northwest Washington.
  5. Saving the orca by enhancing hatchery production on Puget Sound – SB 5824 (2019) – Ericksen’s bill, modeled after a successful approach to hatchery production in Alaska, would have created public-private partnerships to develop new hatcheries on Puget Sound. The program would have started with a pilot project on the Bellingham waterfront. The proposal, later championed by others, was defeated due to opposition from environmental and tribal groups, which saw it as a threat to proposals to breach Snake River dams. Yet the proposal remains the solution most likely to provide feedstock for threatened orca on Puget Sound.
  6. Breaching the Ballard Locks – SB 6380 (2019) – Ericksen was fond of introducing bills to make a point, and one of the most memorable was his proposal to restore Seattle waterways and other Seattle water projects to a pristine wilderness state. The plan would have breached the Ballard Locks, removed dams owned and operated by Seattle City Light, and raised the shoreline of Lake Washington to pre-settlement levels. Ericksen envisioned that a new economy based on tourism could be established in the environmental wonderland Seattle would become, including canoe trips over the site of the Boeing plant in Renton. “Most of the support for breaching the Snake River dams seems to come from Seattle,” he observed. “But if its citizens understood the environmental damage caused by big water projects right in their home town, I am sure they would want to lead by example.”