Trump Picks Businessman To Lead NOAA

Nov 29, 2017
Originally published on November 29, 2017 7:58 am
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Climate science is not the only science that starting political arguments. Weather forecasting has, too. President Trump chose a businessman to lead the agency in charge of forecasting, and his confirmation hearing comes today. NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce reports on why he's a contentious choice.

NELL GREENFIELDBOYCE, BYLINE: Turn on your local TV station, and you might hear something like this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ACCUWEATHER BROADCAST)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Here's the AccuWeather seven-day forecast.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: Accuweather is a company based in central Pennsylvania, and it's a family business. The CEO is Barry Myers. He and his two brothers have built the company. Now their relatives work there. Now Myers wants to be head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which runs the National Weather Service. But some see a huge, unavoidable conflict of interest. Andrew Rosenberg is with the Union of Concerned Scientists.

ANDREW ROSENBERG: I don't think it's appropriate that he lead the federal agency that will directly impact his business model.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: That concern is shared by the National Weather Service Employees Organization. Its president is Dan Sobien. He says, back in 2005, AccuWeather was pushing legislation that disturbed them.

DAN SOBIEN: They essentially wanted the National Weather Service to get out of the weather business.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: Under the effort, which failed, the government wouldn't have been able to share routine forecasts and data with the public - only with commercial companies like AccuWeather.

SOBIEN: The American people own that weather information that he wants for free so that he can repackage and resell it.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: But the AccuWeather connection doesn't really bother Cliff Mass. He's a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington.

CLIFF MASS: I'm not that worried. I mean, I think he's a pretty fair guy.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: His big concern is that the national weather forecasting system has been mismanaged and is falling behind the rest of the world.

MASS: Getting someone new from the outside with a very different viewpoint could actually be a good thing.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: He does note that Myers is not a scientist. In the past, heads of NOAA have traditionally had a science background. And NOAA is responsible for far more than just weather prediction. It also studies climate change, coastal restoration and fisheries.

Nell Greenfieldboyce, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.