By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday nominated the chief executive of AccuWeather Inc to head the government’s meteorological agency that monitors the climate and issues daily weather forecasts.
Trump nominated Barry Myers, CEO of privately owned weather forecasting company AccuWeather, to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, part of the U.S. Commerce Department.
Myers’ name was first floated for the position in January, and the Washington Post reported in May he had emerged as the front runner. AccuWeather did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
The White House said Myers has run AccuWeather since 2007 and over the last decade the “company has experienced its highest grossing years, and its largest global web and mobile audience growth. He is one of the world’s leading authorities on the use of weather information.”
AccuWeather, based in State College, Pennsylvania, was founded by Myers’ brother Joel Myers.
The Trump administration proposed in May cutting the NOAA budget by 17 percent to $4.8 billion, including cutting $230 million for grant and education programs. NOAA provides daily and long-term weather forecasts for agricultural planning and emergency response to severe weather like hurricanes.
In July, Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat, raised concerns about the nomination. AccuWeather in 2005 worked with then-Senator Rick Santorum to back an unsuccessful proposal that would have limited dissemination of National Weather Service forecasts on websites.
“Many Americans have come to rely on forecasts issued daily by the National Weather Service,” Nelson said. “From storm tracking to drought forecasts, this information is critical to protecting life, property and livelihoods. Any nominee who has a history of trying to undercut the National Weather Service for financial gain should raise serious questions.”
The Center for American Progress, a think thank associated with the Democratic Party, on Wednesday criticized the choice of Myers, noting that unlike 11 of the previous 12 NOAA administrators, he lacks an advanced scientific degree.
Myers has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business and also holds a law degree.
“President Trump has responded to NOAA’s remarkable work … by nominating an administrator who has a history of trying to block the agency from issuing weather forecasts to the American public,” Michael Conathan, the center’s director of ocean policy, said in a statement.
Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate deal in June, saying the accord would cost America trillions of dollars, kill jobs and hinder the oil, gas, coal and manufacturing industries. This week, the Trump administration began the process to undo the Obama administration’s clean power plan.
Trump and Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, have both expressed doubts about whether climate change is caused by human activity, something that has been agreed upon by an overwhelming majority of scientists.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Writing by Eric Walsh; Editing by Leslie Adler)