H.R. 2407, the "National Climate Service Act of 2009," approved, as amended, by voice vote.
SUBCOMMITTEE APPROVES DRAFT BILL CREATING NATIONAL CLIMATE SERVICE
Washington, D.C. – May 13, 2009 – The Subcommittee on Energy and Environment today approved by voice vote a draft bill creating a National Climate Service at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). At the hearing, Republican Members raised numerous concerns with the legislation, which they expect to be addressed as the measure moves to Full Committee.
“Instead of pushing for interagency and government-wide participation, this bill assumes that NOAA has both the capacity and the resources to handle the National Climate Service on its own,” said Subcommittee Ranking Member Bob Inglis (R-SC). “Devolving a certain amount of responsibility to regional and state entities would create a far more agile and responsive National Climate Service than the bill we’re looking at now.”
The goal of the bill is to create a National Climate Service at NOAA in order to expand the delivery of climate services and forecasting to stakeholders and decision-makers. State and local governments need reliable information in order to strategically address their vulnerability to events such as floods, droughts, and climate variability that can greatly affect agriculture on a regional level.
While supportive of these goals, Science and Technology Committee Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX) also raised a number of concerns with the draft legislation. “I am concerned about duplication of efforts, the potential for a massive expansion of bureaucracy, a potential ballooning of costs, and the creation of a top-heavy Federal institution that squeezes out the work being done already at the State level and forces local policy-makers to make decisions with information that really isn’t useful to them.”
Recognizing that the National Climate Service bill will eventually be included in the broader Democratic cap and trade bill, Hall further highlighted concerns regarding the current limitations of climate modeling and forecasting, particularly at the regional and local levels, where such data is most crucial to decision-makers. Citing a recent Office of Management and Budget (OMB) memo, Hall expressed concerns about developing a comprehensive regime to regulate greenhouse gases when neither Congress nor the EPA have undertaken a systematic risk or cost benefit analysis.
Hall submitted the OMB memo into today’s markup record. The memo echoed recent hearing testimony given before the Science and Technology Committee, focused on greenhouse gas (GHG) monitoring and verification. Both the OMB memo and witnesses at the hearing suggest that better point source data are needed, along with more comprehensive and accurate GHG baselines. In the absence of these verifiable baselines, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to accurately gage the impact of mandatory GHG regulation.
Hall concluded, saying, “We should be cautious in moving forward before we have the proper national infrastructure for monitoring and modeling climate variability in place.”
At the markup, an amendment offered by Ranking Member Hall was approved by voice vote. The amendment would ensure operational quality control of all National Climate Service products and guarantee high-quality data collection by performing regular maintenance and verification.
Further, Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) offered and withdrew two amendments. The first highlighted the need for Congress to officially establish NOAA within the Department of Commerce with an organic act. Dr. Ehlers has introduced a NOAA Organic Act in previous Congresses, but in all cases, the bill has stalled either in other Committees or in the Senate. Ehlers’ second withdrawn amendment would have required NOAA’s Under Secretary to appoint the Director of the National Weather Service to also be the Director of the Climate Service Office.