ALERT: Oppose Limitations on NOAA

(Posted 4-25-05)

This update was originally sent out as an e-mail message to AGI's member societies.

In A Nutshell: A bill, entitled "National Weather Services Duties Act of 2005" (S.786) introduced by Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on April 14, 2005 would limit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from providing weather data, particularly through the National Weather Service. The bill would expressly prohibit federal weather forecasters from competing with commercial weather forecasters such as AccuWeather and the Weather Channel. Critics say the wording of the bill is so vague that it is not clear what data could or could not be provided by NOAA. The bill might force the National Weather Service website to be removed or to have much of its data removed. The National Weather Service would only be allowed to "provide severe weather forecasts and warnings designed for the protection of life and property of the general public."

According to a report in the Palm Beach Post, Barry Myers, the executive vice president of AccuWeather, which is based in State College PA, stated that "The National Weather Service has not focused on what its core mission should be, which is protecting other people's lives and property,… It spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year, every day, producing forecasts of 'warm and sunny'." Santorum made similar arguments when introducing his bill. He also said expanded federal services threaten the livelihoods of private weather companies. "It is not an easy prospect for a business to attract advertisers, subscribers or investors when the government is providing similar products and services for free," Santorum said.

The problem between NOAA and commercial weather services has grown since NOAA set aside a 1991 rule that prohibited the agency from providing services that private companies could provide. The National Weather Service website and other NOAA websites have provided more data, more tools to explain the data and more analyses of the data. The information has been used by a growing number of scientists, educators, students, emergency managers, other professionals and amateurs who use weather data for a bevy of different purposes, and the general public.

Limiting the data provided by the National Weather Service and NOAA could be detrimental to their current users and the public. Taxpayers pay for the data collected by NOAA and should have access to the data and information about the data. Limiting the data may also delay severe weather forecasts and warnings that are meant to protect life and property if a special certification is required before data can be posted.

Please write or call your senators and ask them to oppose Senate bill S.786, the "National Weather Services Duties Act of 2005". A list of senators on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee that must consider the bill is given below. You may also contact the Committee chairmen, Senator Ted Stevens and Senator Daniel Inouye through the Committee's telephone 202-224-5115 or FAX 202-224-1259.

Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
Ted Stevens - Alaska (chairman)
Hart 522 202-224-3004
John McCain - Arizona
Russell 241 202-224-2235
Conrad Burns - Montana
Dirksen 187 202-224-2644
Trent Lott - Mississippi
Russell 487 202-224-6253
Kay Bailey Hutchison - Texas
Russell 284 202-224-5922
Olympia Snowe - Maine
Russell 154 202-224-5344
Gordon Smith - Oregon
Russell 404 202-224-3753
John Ensign - Nevada
Russell 364 202-224-6244
George Allen - Virginia
Russel 204 202-224-4024
John Sununu - New Hampshire
Russell 111 202-224-2841
Jim DeMint - South Carolina
Hart 825 202-224-6121
David Vitter - Louisiana
Hart 825A 202-224-4623
Daniel K. Inouye - Hawaii (co-chair)
Hart 722 202-224-3934
John D. Rockefeller IV - West Virginia
Hart 531 202-224-6472
John F. Kerry - Massachussetts
Russell 304 202-224-2742
Byron L. Dorgan - North Dakota
Hart 322 202-224-2551
Barbara Boxer - California
Hart 112 202-224-3553
Bill Nelson - Florida
Hart 716 202-224-5274
Maria Cantwell - Washington
Hart 717 202-224-3441
Frank Lautenberg - New Jersey
Hart 324 202-224-3224
E. Benjamin Nelson - Nebraska
Hart 720 202-224-6551
Mark Pryor - Arkansas
Russell 217 202-224-2353

1. Call your Senator's Washington, DC office.

You may obtain the phone number from their official website ( or you may call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard (202-224-3121) and ask to be connected to Senator [name] office. NOTE: You must know the name of your Senator prior to calling the switchboard; they will not be able to tell you who your member of Congress is.

Ask to speak to the legislative assistant responsible for NOAA. When connected: Encourage the staffer to have Senator [name] oppose Senate Bill S.786, the "National Weather Services Duties Act of 2005". Be prepared to mention how important the National Weather Service website and data are to your research, academic department/institution, as educational tools and/or to your community. Legislative staff are busy, so you may be asked if you would like to leave a voice mail - you do. Simply convey the same information you would have if you spoke to the staffer in person, but be sure to leave your contact information.

2. E-Mail or Fax your Senator

Your Senator's e-mail addresses and fax numbers are available on their website at

Tips for an effective e-mail or fax message:

-Be sure that the subject line in your e-mail is clear: Please oppose Senate Bill S.786, the "National Weather Services Duties Act of 2005".

-Be sure that you include your contact information at the top of the e-mail/letter; this must include your name, mailing address, phone number and e-mail address. NOTE: many offices will discard correspondence that does not include contact information, or that comes from outside of their district.

-In the opening paragraph of your message, clearly state that you are writing to ask that your Senator to oppose Senate Bill S.786, the "National Weather Services Duties Act of 2005". Tell them that the bill would restrict access to useful data and may unintentionally hinder severe weather warnings.

Please fax or e-mail a copy of your letter to AGI at Government Affairs Program, 4220 King Street, Alexandria VA 22302-1502; fax 703-379-7563; email

Many thanks for taking the time to be an active citizen-scientist!

Alert prepared by Linda Rowan, AGI Director of Government Affairs

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.

Posted April 25, 2005