WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a nominations hearing at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, November 29, 2017, for the president’s nominee to serve as administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
- Mr. Barry Lee Myers, of Pennsylvania, to be Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere
Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Mr. Chairman, today we’re going to be discussing the future of one of the most popular federal agencies - one that directly impacts the daily lives of millions of Americans. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, is an agency most people are aware of because of weather forecasts and warnings distributed free of charge through the National Weather Service.
When Hurricane Irma was barreling toward Florida, it was National Weather Service employees - including the great professionals at the National Hurricane Center in Coral Gables - who provided key forecasts to Florida’s local governments and emergency managers by using all of NOAA’s satellites and other assets.
But NOAA’s mission doesn’t stop there. It’s responsible for sustainably managing our nation’s fisheries; ensuring that ships are able to get in and out of our ports; protecting critters, corals, and habitats; and helping coastal communities plan for the future.
As I speak, NOAA is carrying out cutting edge climate research, providing coastal communities with flood warnings and working in my state to mitigate the harmful effects of algal blooms and coral bleaching.
The bottom line is NOAA plays a crucial role in protecting the lives and property of all Americans. And that role is increasing thanks to the growing risks from human-caused climate change.
Mr. Myers, I mention all of this to make sure you truly understand how important a role NOAA plays in all of our lives.
As the CEO of AccuWeather I understand that you are knowledgeable about our national weather program and I commend your business background.
But as I look at that background I have serious concerns.
It’s no secret that in 2005 you were behind a bill sponsored by then-Senator Santorum that would have prohibited the weather service from offering a product or service "that is or could be provided by the private sector" - a provision that would have directly benefited AccuWeather.
If this bill had passed, Americans’ access to free and potentially life-saving government weather forecasts would have been placed at great risk.
While NOAA has always put protecting the lives and properties of Americans ahead of making a buck off forecasts and warnings, your past history with the Santorum bill suggests you might do otherwise.
And, with your family connections at AccuWeather, there remains lingering concern about potential conflicts of interest.
How can we be sure that you will not have a conflict of interest with a company owned by your brothers, previously run by you? How can weather service employees and the public trust you will truly refrain from involving yourself in NOAA decisions that could affect your family’s company?
These are questions that should be put to rest before you leave today and done so in a way that your answers are clear to everyone.
Mr. Myers, what we really need is a NOAA administrator who will do what is best for the American people. While I sincerely hope that person is you, I want to hear more on how you plan to avoid conflicts and safeguard the critical mission of the agency.
Witness Panel 1
Barry Lee Myers