January 17, 2019

Former AccuWeather CEO Barry Myers Renominated to Run NOAA



President Donald Trump on Wednesday renominated former AccuWeather CEO Barry Myers for the position of NOAA Administrator. Myers' nomination has been stalled since October 2017 due to opposition over his conflicts of interest and general pleasure with Acting Administrator Tim Gallaudet's performance on the job. His nomination expired at the beginning of the month with the end of the 115th Congress.

The (now-former) CEO of AccuWeather faced opposition for the head job at NOAA as the company he and his brothers have run for decades considers the National Weather Service a direct competitor. Critics worry that Myers would use his position to diminish the reach of the NWS in favor of his family's Pennsylvania-based weather company, or use the office to make decisions for the financial benefit of weather companies such as his own.

I elaborated on some of the worries when Myers' nomination expired a few weeks ago:
The greatest single point of opposition to Barry Myers leading NOAA is the many conflicts of interest that would follow Myers into office. The greatest example of these potential conflicts was his company's support for S.786—the National Weather Service Duties Act of 2005. The bill, introduced and unilaterally supported by former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), would have effectively privatized the NWS and used the agency to subsidize private weather companies.

Santorum's legislation would have required the National Weather Service to stop issuing public forecasts except for "severe weather forecasts and warnings designed for the protection of life and property of the general public"—in other words, it limited the agency's public portfolio to emergencies like tornado warnings. All of their other forecasts, products, and data had to be provided "through a set of data portals designed for volume access by commercial providers of products or services," turning private weather companies into middlemen between the NWS and the public. 

[...]

A failed piece of legislation from a decade-and-a-half ago isn't the entire reason for opposition to Myers' nomination. But it typifies the potential that exists for Myers to act in ways that benefit companies like AccuWeather. The nominee would enter office with enormous conflicts of interest in tow. If Myers became the NOAA Administrator, he would control the agency that directly competes with his company. Even if Myers divested from AccuWeather, his brothers still control the company and he has a vested interest in seeing his family's company thrive against the direct competitor he would control.
Myers will also be one of the only NOAA Administrators in the agency's history not to hold a science degree.

The move did not come as a surprise. AccuWeather announced earlier this month that Myers resigned his position as CEO on January 1 and divested his financial interest in the company. Myers' renomination to the post, along with his resignation and divestiture from AccuWeather, is a sign that the increased Republican majority in the U.S. Senate will likely confirm Myers to the position at some point in the near future.

[Top Image: Pierre cb via Wikimedia Commons]

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I graduated from the University of South Alabama in 2014 with a degree in political science and a minor in meteorology. I ran Gawker's The Vane for two years and I've contributed to Mental Floss, Forbes, Popular Science, and the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang. I also teamed up with Outdoor Life to write a book called The Extreme Weather Survival Manual, which came out in October 2015.

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