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State of Washington Classified Job Specification


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Class Code: 523X
Category: Science & Engineering


As the agency or program expert in one or more environmental program specialty areas or agency initiatives, plans, develops, directs and/or implements actions to address the most significant and complex environmental issues impacting the state’s natural and environmental resources. These issues have broad potential impact on the health and safety of the public, and, if not addressed, will result in significant environmental, regulatory and potential financial consequences to the state. Issues are characterized by the requirement for innovative or precedent setting actions and reflect complicated and emerging issues, with conflicting interests among the parties and broad public impacts. Positions focus on strategic intervention, policy and regulatory development and enforcement to meet objectives; or serves as the agency environmental regulatory expert advising consultants and developing operational policies, guidelines, and procedures for environmental compliance; or supervises five or more professional environmental staff.

Distinguishing Characteristics

Positions at this level are independent and require only administrative direction from the supervisor. Positions are responsible to lead, plan, design, and carry out projects in accordance with broad policy statements or legal requirements and exercise independent decision-making authority for determining work objectives and goals to be accomplished. Positions may lead and direct others on the most complex, sensitive and controversial projects with no precedent.

In the Department of Ecology, positions acting as an agency or program expert are characterized by one or more of the following assignments which comprise the majority of the position:

• As the agency expert provides consultation, recommends and responds directly to management on highly complex and/or politically sensitive inquiries for technical assistance requiring expert scientific knowledge;
• Represents the agency as the recognized expert in one or more of the most significant and complex program specialty areas or agency initiatives. Serves as the agency lead in the development, implementation, and evaluation of state and federal programs to mitigate or prevent environmental contamination or damage, including enforcement of environmental laws and regulations;
• Represents the agency on national or multi-state commissions, environmental panels or professional organizations as the expert in the assigned specialty area;
• Evaluates and assesses the scientific rigor of research studies on various contaminants and their impact on the environment. Develops policy options to address problems caused by ongoing release of toxins and contaminants;
• Designs, develops and conducts environmental studies on the most significant and complex environmental issues;
• Drafts legislation to implement key components of the agency’s response to environmental issues. Prepares and presents testimony to the Legislature;
• Leads regulatory reviews and develops agency rules, rule revisions and statewide guidelines for the program area;
• Acts as a policy specialist, responsible for long-range policy development and strategy in the program area. Ensures that program operations comply with federal rules in order to avoid sanctions resulting in the curtailment of federal funds or the imposition of difficult requirements for new industries;
• Acts as the state’s lead in coordinating the response to environmental emergencies including coordinating activities of other state, federal, and tribal representatives. For example, during spill emergencies, has direct management of state, federal, and tribal natural resource trustees in seeking a uniform and coordinated settlement for all natural resource losses;
• Represents the program on highly complex or controversial enforcement/compliance actions involving other programs or agencies.

Typical Work

Advises program management on monitoring/sampling policies, priorities, effectiveness and cross-media or agency issues and requirements;

Evaluates equipment inventories for material readiness, amortization and technology transfer; management of contracted services, equipment utilization; conducts equipment needs assessments;

Advises program management on violations of critical/controversial agency interest, evaluates rule effectiveness and recommends enforcement/compliance rule making; may represent the program on multimedia or highly complex or controversial enforcement/compliance actions involving other programs or agencies;

Works with other programs and agencies in identifying information required for policy development, legislation, regulations and recommended priorities, scheduling requirements, information parameters to program management;

Evaluates databases/inventories for policy or regulation development; determines new, changing or emerging requirements for databases/inventories; may work with other programs or agencies on database/inventory requirements;

Has lead responsibility on complex controversial or critical plans for resource management, policy or regulation development, non-compliance with permitting or statewide cleanup priorities and decisions involving multiple programs and agencies;

Advises program or agency management on the need for contractor/consultant services versus agency staff/expertise;

Is designated to identify critical or emerging issues and to recommend preventative or corrective measures;

Represents agency and testifies at legal or public hearings or conferences and before congress;

Provides expertise and/or historical background not otherwise available to the department which is used as a basis for agency management decisions;

Serves as an agency representative to regional and/or national commissions, environmental or professional organizations relevant to assigned responsibilities with the agency;

Performs the duties of the lower levels in the series;

Performs other work as required.

Knowledge and Abilities

Knowledge of: applicable state, federal and local environmental regulations and policies; environmental planning principles; historical and current concerns from stakeholders and tribal nations on environmental issues; methods for the development of an environmental program or complex study; multimedia environmental principles and practices and complex environmental regulations.

Ability to: identify and assess program/agency service delivery needs and requirements; recognize emerging issues and conduct advance planning to address those issues; represent program or agency management on complex or controversial issues with other agencies, jurisdictions or interest groups; effectively negotiate and resolve conflict; effectively communicate technical information clearly, both orally and in writing; demonstrate a high degree of technical expertise in a particular field or specialty as shown through the publication of papers in peer reviewed and scientific or technical journals and/or the presentation of papers at professional conferences; demonstrate effective application of expertise in specialist field within program and agency; innovate and create approaches to resolution of environmental issues.

Legal Requirement(s)

There may be instances where individual positions must have additional licenses or certification. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure the appropriate licenses/certifications are obtained for each position. 

Desirable Qualifications

A Bachelor's degree involving major study in environmental, physical, or one of the natural sciences, environmental planning or other allied field and six years of professional level experience in environmental analysis or control, or environmental planning, which includes two years equal to an Environmental Specialist 3 or above.

Additional qualifying experience will substitute, year for year, for education.


A Master's degree in one of the above fields and four years of professional- level experience as required above which includes two years equal to an Environmental Specialist 3 or above.


A Ph.D. in one of the above fields and three years of professional-level experience as required above which includes two years equal to an Environmental Specialist 3 or above.


One year of experience as an Environmental Specialist 4.

Class Specification History

New class: 5-5-72.
Revised minimum qualifications: 9-15-72.
General revision: 11-10-78.
Revised minimum qualifications: 2-15-80.
Revised definition and minimum qualifications: 4-11-86.
Revised definition: 8-15-86.
Revised definition: 9-11-87.
Revised definition, minimum qualifications, general revision and title change (formerly Environmentalist 5): 3-11-94.
Revise minimum qualifications: 2-9-96.
New class code, formerly 62990, effective July 1, 2007.
Revised class code, formerly 523I, effective August 17, 2007.
Revise definition, add distinguishing characteristics; adopted November 8, 2012, effective November 9, 2012.
Revised definition, distinguishing characteristics, typical work, knowledge and abilities, salary range adjustment, adopted June 22, 2023, effective July 1, 2023.