- Associated Press - Monday, January 23, 2017

SEATTLE (AP) - Two Republican state legislators from Washington have been chosen by President Donald Trump to help reshape the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Seattle Times reports ( https://bit.ly/2jjVEEV ) that former state Sen. Don Benton, of Vancouver, and state Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, are among 10 officials who joined the EPA over the weekend as part of a transition effort. Both Benton and Ericksen were early campaign backers of Trump.

Benton was named senior White House adviser supervising the EPA transition. Ericksen will act as communications director for the agency transition.

Ericksen said he does not intend to resign his state senate seat - but instead will fly back and forth to do both jobs. If Ericksen were to quit, it would leave the state Senate temporarily in a tie - a Republican led caucus now holds a 25-24 majority.

In a statement, Benton said he looked forward to working with career EPA employees “to make this transition work as well as possible, and to carry out the agency’s mission to protect public health and the environment.”

While Ericksen and Benton’s new roles are temporary - lasting up to a few months - they could transition to permanent jobs in the agency. Ericksen said he doesn’t want to live in Washington, D.C., but is interested in a local role, such as leading the EPA’s regional office.

Both Ericksen and Benton have been critics of government environmental regulations.

The local Sierra Club criticized the hiring of Benton and Ericksen.

“It’s hard to imagine two lawmakers less qualified to be put in charge of environmental protection in the Pacific Northwest,” said Cesia Kearns, deputy regional director for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.

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