June 15, 2006

Oversight Exemptions for NOAA?

Posted to Author: Others | Science Policy: General

Guest Post by David Bruggeman

Yesterday the House Science Committee, while passing an act formally codifying the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration into law (President Nixon created the agency via Executive Order), dealt with amendments over scientific integrity.

According to CQ.com, Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC) offered an amendment providing whistleblower protection for scientists and punishment for employees who tampered with science. The amendment would have also exempted NOAA from the Information Quality Act - legislation that allows the public to petition the government over flawed data. Another amendment, by Rep. Costello (D-IL) would have barred the White House from editing reports prior to submitting them to Congress.

Both amendments failed. Chairman Boehlert released a statement addressing his opposition to the amendments, which can be found here. He argues that the amendments would have prompted some difficult jurisdicitional scrambles (mainly with the Government Reform Committee and the Resources Committee - which also has NOAA oversight). He also argues, I think convincingly, that the amendment is written somewhat broadly, and placed in a bill related to an agency that is not, in the eyes of many, a particularly egregious offender in the debates over political interference in science.

While I understand the sentiments behind the amendments, I'm not in favor of potentially sabotaging legislation that is necessary. A large government agency without formal statutory authority? That needs to be addressed. And adding arguably tangential amendments makes it harder to pass such legislation. A desire for better science should not trump the need for good law.

Posted on June 15, 2006 10:10 PM


Sabotaging legislation that is necessary? A little history, please.

NOAA was created by executive order in 1970 and has for 36 years survived quite nicely without broad statutory authority -- that is, without an "organic" Act. So, by the way, has EPA. The amendments you mention were not offered in the spirit of "sabotaging" the NOAA organic legislation. They were offered in the spirit of dealing with some issues that have been largely ignored by Republican-controlled Committees (e.g. White House meddling) or that were originally enacted in the dark of night, with no debate whatsoever (e.g. the Data Quality Act).

Passage of organic legislation is supposed to deal with more than organizational boxes; it's also supposed to deal with policy issues, and the ones you dismiss are certainly worthy of debate and consideration.

Posted by: Bob Palmer at June 16, 2006 08:05 AM

"an agency that is not, in the eyes of many, a particularly egregious offender in the debates over political interference in science."

That's it, folks, just move along. There's absolutely nothing to see here: http://www.climatesciencewatch.org/index.php/csw/details/lieberman-marburger-lautenbacher/ .

Posted by: Steve Bloom [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 16, 2006 09:56 PM

I think it is somewhat amusing that Steve and Bob are so upset over the actions of the Republicans in Congress and the White House. As someone who lived through Bill Clinton claiming that the debate on global warming was over and Al Gore's enviromental zealotry, I find the actions of the current leaders much less controlling than what we had in the 90s.

At least I have the honesty to admit that the Republicans are making feable attempts to steer the science, while the other side simply ignores the favoritism that the previous administration showered on those who shared a similar ideology, with appointments to NASA, the EPA and in general funding.

If you want the government to fund most of the science, then you will not be able to seperate the politics from the science, especially after the presidence set by the Clinton Administration. It is a little too late to start whining about it now!

Posted by: Jim Clarke [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 17, 2006 05:42 PM


Nice non sequitur. I have no idea what you're talking about.

The rest of us, in case you missed it the first time, were talking about the appropriateness of appending various amendments to NOAA legislation. We could stray down your merry paths of NASA appointments and Clinton's extremism, but logically it would just as appropriate to discuss recipes for steak tartare or Michelson's chances in the Open tomorrow.

Try to stay on the rails ... it makes for a better discussion.

Posted by: Bob Palmer at June 17, 2006 06:17 PM

I should add to Bob's comment that nothing I have ever said here or anywhere else could be construed as arguing that the Clinton administration had a good environmental record, or that the next swing of power can be expected to produce leaders who will deal with global warming appropriately. Believe me, I deal directly with too many politicans to have any illusions about them. To the extent that I spend more time criticizing the actions of Republicans that Democrats, that is simply a function of the Republicans being in power. I am very concerned that the Democrats will end up doing worse damage once they do get back into power, a stance summed up very neatly by Bill McKibben: http://www.news-journalonline.com/NewsJournalOnline/Opinion/Editorials/opnOPN76061806.htm

http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/prometheus/archives/science_policy_general/000855oversight_exemptions.html .