Politics & Government

State senator invites climate-change denier to brief committee while he’s away

The state Legislative Building is shown in 2013.
The state Legislative Building is shown in 2013. Staff file, 2013

A presentation by a climate-change denier scheduled for Tuesday in the Republican-led state Senate is drawing fierce criticism from Democrats who say the briefing is a misuse of government time.

Tony Heller — who also blogs under the pseudonym Steven Goddard — will address an environmental committee run by state Sen. Doug Ericksen, a Republican from Ferndale who is temporarily leading communications at the Environmental Protection Agency for the Trump administration.

State Sen. Reuven Carlyle blasted Ericksen Monday for Heller’s scheduled presentation in light of rescheduled hearings and work-flow interruptions caused by Ericksen’s EPA gig. Carlyle, of Seattle, is the ranking Democrat on the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications Committee.

“This is a categorical waste of time that can only be classified as embarrassing to the institution of the Washington state Senate and nothing short of an embarrassment to the policies that are not being addressed by this committee,” Carlyle said in an interview.

Ericksen defended the hearing, saying Heller has “a different viewpoint to bring forward for the state to get the whole menu of views when it comes to the issue.”

Heller’s blog says “global warming is the biggest fraud in science history.” He claims reports of human-caused climate change are exaggerated and that government agencies are manipulating climate data to further a false narrative.

A Twitter account under Heller’s pseudonym posted a video of Seattle’s snow on Monday, writing that “global warming in Seattle keeps getting worse!” (The account also falsely claimed that former President Barack Obama is an immigrant.)

Peer-reviewed studies show that 97 percent or more of “actively publishing climate scientists” agree that the climate is warming, and that trend is “extremely likely due to human activities,” according to a NASA website detailing the international scientific consensus on global warming.

Last year was Earth’s hottest on record, government climate scientists report. It was the fifth time in 12 years a new annual heat record has been set.

Tuesday’s hearing comes as Ericksen has defended his dual role this month against attacks from Democrats who say he can’t adequately perform his committee duties while spending time in Washington, D.C.

Ericksen maintains his committee is functioning normally despite his absences, pointing to an evening meeting last week at which several bills were passed out of committee.

Ericksen said he wasn’t expecting to attend Heller’s presentation but would not say if he was missing the committee for federal work. Ericksen was in Washington, D.C., Monday, according to his Olympia office.

In a media conference last week, Ericksen summed up his own views on climate change, saying “there definitely could be an impact from humans” on Earth’s climate, but said the EPA should “continue looking” at whether it’s as big as scientists say.

Carlyle said Ericksen’s committee has many environmental issues it should be addressing, including oil spills and habitat protection. Instead, “we are actually, truthfully, holding a hearing straight out of the 1950s that questions tens of thousands of peer reviewed” studies that show “rock solid proof” of human-caused climate change, Carlyle said.

Walker Orenstein: 360-786-1826, @walkerorenstein