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A month into hurricane season, Charlie Crist says Donald Trump needs to fill NOAA post

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Among the many positions in the federal government that have gone unfilled during the first five months of the Donald Trump administration is someone to lead the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

With hurricane season only about to get more intense in the coming months, Charlie Crist is calling on the White House to fill that position now.

“Not only does NOAA’s work help support our local economy, but it also provides valuable information to my constituents — information that saves lives,” said Crist. “Leaving the position of NOAA Administrator vacant is taking an unnecessary risk with people’s lives and livelihoods. I’m urging President Trump to quickly nominate a qualified individual and work with the Senate to have them confirmed.”

The NOAA administrator oversees a wide portfolio of climate research, weather forecasting and ocean protection and a $5.6 billion budget. The long vacancy is in contrast to Barack Obama, which nominated Jane Lubchenco as his NOAA administrator a month before he was inaugurated.

NOAA is currently being led by Benjamin Friedman, the Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere.

The Washington Post recently listed three officials as being the top contenders to be nominated by Trump; Scott Rayder, a senior adviser to the President of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and former NOAA chief of staff; Barry Lee Myers, the CEO of AccuWeather; and Jon White, President and CEO of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership.

Last month NOAA reported that for the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season, “forecasters predict a 45 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 35 percent chance of a near-normal season, and only a 20 percent chance of a below-normal season.”

Here’s the text of Crist’s letter to Trump:

Dear President Trump,

I write today to urge you to expeditiously nominate a qualified individual to serve as Administrator of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The work performed by NOAA is critically important to not only my District, but to countless other communities across the country. NOAA is responsible for weather forecasting, ocean monitoring, coastal resiliency and planning, and fishery management, just to name a few. Not only does this work help support the local economy of my District, but it also provides valuable information to my constituents — information that saves lives.

As a Floridian and member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, the National Weather Service (NWS), including the National Hurricane Center, is of utmost importance to me. As you know, hurricane season began on June 1st; and NOAA has predicted an above-normal season in the Atlantic. In fact, we’ve already seen three named storms this year — including a rare preseason tropical storm and Tropical Storm Cindy, which recently made landfall along the Gulf Coast. It is critically important that you immediately nominate a NOAA Administrator who can provide the stability and direction needed to appropriately manage and navigate hurricane season.

I would also like to commend the work performed by the NWS field offices, including the office located in Ruskin, Florida near my District. These offices fill a critical link between national weather prediction and local preparedness; and I am a strong supporter of the men and women who tirelessly staff them — many of whom work off-hours and overnight shifts. In light of the recent Government Accountability Office report showing that NWS meteorologist vacancies are growing and “employees are fatigued and morale is low,” it is my hope that the next NOAA Administrator will take a hard look at this issue and move in an appropriate direction to correct it. Fatigued employees mean less accurate predictions. Less accurate predictions mean more lives at risk during severe weather events.

Mr. President, leaving the position of NOAA Administrator vacant is taking an unnecessary risk with people’s lives and livelihoods. I urge you to quickly nominate a qualified individual and work with the Senate to have them confirmed. Thank you for your consideration of this important request.

Sincerely,

Charlie Crist
United States Congressman

 

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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