Barry Myers, the chief executive of the private weather forecasting company AccuWeather, is President Trump’s pick to run the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The appointment of Myers, a businessman and lawyer, breaks from the recent precedent of scientists leading the agency tasked with a large, complex and technically demanding portfolio.
(From Washington Post/by Jason Samenow) — The agency oversees the National Weather Service, conducts and funds weather and climate research, and operates a constellation of weather satellites as well as a climate data center. It also has critical responsibilities in monitoring and protecting the nation’s coasts, oceans and fisheries.
Myers’s supporters say he brings valuable experience from the private sector that will help NOAA advance its capabilities.
“[I]n an Administration that places high value on business acumen, Barry brings a strong track record in growing one of the most successful companies in the weather industry,” said Ray Ban, co-chair of the Weather Coalition, an advocacy group for strengthening America’s weather industry across sectors.
Vice Adm. Conrad Lautenbacher, NOAA administrator under George W. Bush, said Myers is an “ideal fit” for the position. “Barry brings with him an outstanding record as a leader and manager as well as many years of experience in all aspects of meteorology,” he said.
But others are concerned about his potential conflicts of interest and lack of science background.
As NOAA administrator, Myers would be in charge of the Weather Service whose data are heavily used by his family business, based in State College, Pa.
AccuWeather has, in the past, supported measures to limit the extent to which the Weather Service can release information to the public, so that private companies could generate their own value-added products using this same information. In 2005, for example, Myers and his brother Joel gave money to then-Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), who introduced legislation aimed at curtailing government competition with private weather services.
“Barry Myers defines ‘conflict of interest,’” said Ciaran Clayton, who was communications director at NOAA in the Obama administration. “He actively lobbied to privatize the National Weather Service, which works day in and day out to protect the lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans, to benefit his own company’s bottom line.”
Myers’s appointment is strongly opposed by the labor union for the National Weather Service, the NWS Employees Organization, for this same reason. “As NOAA administrator, he would be in a position to fundamentally alter the nature of weather services that NOAA provides the nation, to the benefit of his family-owned business,” said Richard Hirn, a spokesperson for the union.
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) called Myers a “questionable choice” to lead NOAA. “Mr. Myers will have to work very hard to persuade me that he will run NOAA for the public good,” Schatz said. “[H]e will also need to explain why his service as NOAA Administrator will not violate conflict of interest rules and regulations.”
In January, when he was first rumored to be a candidate for administrator, Myers expressed strong support for the Weather Service and its mission. He has a long history of working with the Weather Service, having advised five directors, according to his biography, and won an award from the American Meteorological Society for…
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