H.R. 2407, the "National Climate Service Act of 2009." approved, as amended, by voice vote.
REPUBLICANS SUPPORT SOUND SCIENCE BEHIND CLIMATE SERVICE
Washington, D.C. – June 4, 2009 - In a markup last evening, Science and Technology Committee Republicans expressed numerous concerns over H.R. 2407, a bill creating an interagency National Climate Service and a Climate Service Program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Republicans offered a total of 18 amendments in an attempt to improve and clarify the legislation, of which four were accepted. The bill subsequently passed out of Committee nearly along party lines.
Republican amendments addressed the absence of a cost estimate, a vague structure that does not limit the possibility of significant bureaucratic expansion, few guidelines to ensure the quality and accuracy of data and information, no national strategy for improving future observing and monitoring systems, and no peer review of the models that would inform decisions.
In his opening remarks, Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX) discussed his concern that this bill would likely be included in H.R. 2454, the Waxman/Markey cap and trade bill. Hall said that “the Science Committee’s expertise and knowledge should inform and determine whether and how to implement an economy-altering regulatory regime that, at its very core, will require accurate scientific observations, monitoring, and verification of emissions of greenhouse gases.”
Hall further highlighted concerns regarding the current limitations of climate monitoring and the ability to verify data. “We should be cautious in moving forward until a reliable and cohesive national infrastructure for monitoring and modeling climate variability is in place.” The National Academy of Sciences has also reported that deficiencies in the national climate observing systems seriously limit the quality of data and information used in climate models.
One goal of H.R. 2407 is the creation of a Climate Service Program at NOAA in order to inform stakeholders and decision-makers at the local and regional level about climate variability. While supportive of these goals, Republicans at the markup expressed many concerns that the bill would instead be used to advance a regulatory cap and trade regime that would harm the country’s economic viability at a critical time. Republicans asked questions about the bill’s intent and offered numerous amendments in an attempt to clarify and bring transparency to the legislation.
Four Republican amendments accepted by voice vote clarify specific roles of the National Climate Service and a climate program at NOAA. Specifically the amendments:
However, attempts to address numerous issues of concern went unresolved. Republicans speculated that the vague interagency structure could allow for the creation of a National Climate Service that would move past the stated mission of the bill and instead be transformed into a large bureaucratic department like entity, without additional authorization from Congress. While the bill does not specifically allude to this possibility, the structure for a National Climate Service is so undefined that a massive new bureaucratic body is not out of the question.
In addition to the potential for growth of this new bureaucratic body, Republicans were also very concerned that no cost estimate for either the National Climate Service or the NOAA climate program would be available prior to establishment of each. In an attempt to bring cost transparency, one Republican amendment requested a detailed accounting of the costs of implementation before the creation of the NOAA climate program. Although not accepted, this amendment garnered the support of a few Democrats on the panel.
Three other Republican amendments focused on ensuring quality control of observation, monitoring, and verification technologies in order to ensure the best possible data and information. The amendments proposed that these observations and monitoring systems be certified by the National Academy of Sciences.
Another Republican amendment sought to ensure that all weather and climate models are subject to peer review. Information from these models would be vital to the products and services of the program.
“There has been a misconception that Republicans are against the science behind climate change,” Hall noted. “This notion is not accurate. These amendments are intended to ensure that we get the best data and information possible.”