Barry Myers has a history of fighting the NWS. Will Scott and Rubio support him anyway?

Steve Miller

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Watchdogs, meteorologists, and environmentalists have warned against former AccuWeather CEO Barry Myers to lead NOAA.
His nomination could come down to Florida’s Republican senators.



By Steve Contorno
Original article with pop-ups and all can be found here

President Donald Trump’s pick to run the federal agency in charge of weather forecasting and water monitoring hit a snag this month. A federal report alleged widespread sexual harassment at AccuWeather, the former company of his nominee, Barry Myers.
It’s the second time this year AccuWeather has faced accusations of a hostile work environment.

Few states have as intimate of a relationship with the agency Myers would lead, the NOAA, as weather-worried Florida. The agency’s scientists study everything from sea level rise to coastal flooding and fisheries management. They predict hurricane activity. When storms arrive, its meteorologists forecast the rain and wind and surge.

Yet amid the controversy with Myers, Florida’s two Republican senators, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, wouldn’t say if they support his nomination.
His former company’s hostile work allegations aren’t the only cloud to cast a shadow on Myers since Trump tapped him for the job in 2017. As the former CEO of the weather forecasting company AccuWeather, Myers made millions predicting the weather for clients. Meanwhile, he waged a decades-long war on the NWS, often arguing that weather forecasts should mostly be left up to the private sector.
Myers would oversee the National Weather Service if confirmed.

Government watchdogs have questioned how Myers could oversee a federal agency that overlaps with a business he remains close to. The union representing federal meteorologists has questioned his credentials while environmentalists say a scientist should be in the job. The advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility recently accused Myers of not telling the truth about his former company’s sexual harassment settlement.
Scott recently voted for Myers in a committee but has been silent since.

During a recent stop in Tampa, Rubio said he had only “begun to look at the nomination” of Myers — an appointment first made 18 months ago — so he couldn’t remark on him. But Rubio didn’t seem concerned.
“I anticipate, given just the internal culture of (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the way that agency operates that by and large it will continue to function professionally,” Rubio said. “I’m pretty convinced that will be the case.”

Private weather forecasting is a growing, lucrative industry, led by the Weather Channel. Private forecasters, including AccuWeather, rely on the nearly infinite data collected by the federal government every day from satellites and radar. These companies take that data, analyze it, repackage it with slick graphics and distribute it to their customers.
Barry Myers once joked he wasn’t made to predict the weather. He enrolled in meteorology as an undergraduate, he told the Wall Street Journal in 2014 but dropped out.

“I was never interested in learning, which I look at now as sort of funny,” he said.
His brother Joel Myers earned a doctorate in meteorology and in 1962 he founded AccuWeather in Pennsylvania.
Barry became a lawyer. He climbed the corporate ranks of his brother’s company and ascended to CEO in 2007. Inc. magazine reported in 2016 the company brings in $100 million a year. Under Myers’ watch, AccuWeather created one of the most downloaded mobile weather apps, and its forecasts appears on local news sites and in newspapers across the country, including in the Tampa Bay Times.

AccuWeather is perhaps best known for its 90-day forecasts that many in the industry have described as a gimmick. But the company also says it has delivered life-saving weather warnings to companies that pay for its customized notifications.
Myers’ battles with the NWS started in 1990 with the creation of the Commercial Weather Services Association. For the next two decades, the association’s lobbyists tried to convince Congress that the federal government shouldn’t be in the business of forecasting, except during extreme weather. The battle was recently chronicled by an extensive Bloomberg News report.

Their argument found a receptive ear in then-Sen. Rick Santorum, from AccuWeather’s home state of Pennsylvania. In the mid-2000s, he introduced a bill that critics said would have hindered the National Weather Service. In the most extreme interpretation, no one could get a weather forecast for free.
The Trump administration wouldn’t make Myers available for comment. AccuWeather declined to provide contact information for him.
AccuWeather declined to provide contact info for Myers and suggested trying to reach him through the White House. The White House deferred to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A spokeswoman there said to contact AccuWeather.

“Antagonistic,” is how Phil Klotzbach described the relationship. He’s a professor in Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Science and one of the country’s foremost hurricane experts often cited in Florida.
“I would definitely be very, very cautious,” Klotzbach said. “We should be encouraging (NOAA) to do more, not less. There’s plenty of room for the private sector, too.”

Others are less concerned. Craig Fugate, the former administrator of the FEMA, said the NWS enjoys near-universal support from Congress and is popular with most Americans.
Unlike his predecessors, Myers isn’t a scientist. But Fugate noted that Myers is more intimate with meteorology than many previous administrators, many of which come from other fields. In that sense, Fugate thinks Myers could help the agency modernize.
“Some people are afraid they’re going to sell off the weather service and privatize everything, but I don’t see that happening. I’m not sure how much could be done before Congress steps in,” said Fugate, who also once led Florida’s Department of Emergency Management. “Then again, there are a lot of areas where the administration has done something that Congress has yet to deal with.”

Last year, then-Sen. Bill Nelson helped blocked Myers’ nomination.
Nelson objected to what he said was an “immense cloud of conflict of interest” over Myers stake AccuWeather and his brother Joel’s position heading it.
Joel Myers has also acknowledged founding a hedge fund that trades futures based on his weather predictions. What if Barry Myers — knowingly or otherwise — gave his brother advanced knowledge of a storm or a shifting weather pattern and Joel used that information to profit his fund?
In the face of such questions, Barry Myers stepped away from AccuWeather in January and sold his interest in the company.
But Walter Shaub, the former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, said the arrangement could allow Myers to reclaim his stock after his tenure as NOAA administrator. He recently called Myers a “deeply concerning” appointee and said the deal to unload his stocks raises the possibility of a “sham transaction.”

The latest news about AccuWeather’s workplace environment only solidified Nelson’s opposition, the Florida Democrat recently told the Tampa Bay Times.
It was learned in February that AccuWeather, which has a federal contract, agreed to pay $290,000 to women who said they were sexually harassed at the company. On April 12, the Washington Post reported that federal investigatorsfound conditions for women there were “so severe and pervasive, that some female employees resigned.” The investigation covered Myers’ time as CEO.

AccuWeather denies the allegations and it noted the company remains a qualified federal contractor. Myers in a recent op-ed said the company didn’t fight the charges because it was being sensitive to female employees and didn’t want to disrupt the workplace.
Myers’ nomination expired last year without a Senate vote. Trump re-nominated him earlier this year.

“For so many reasons, (the NOAA) administrator is not the job for Barry Myers,” Nelson told the Times last week. “We can do better and we must.”
But Nelson’s replacement is Rick Scott, a Republican. With a larger majority this year — thanks partly to Scott’s victory over Nelson — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is breaking Senate tradition to speed up Trump’s appointments. Myers could be included in that fast track, though McConnell’s office wouldn’t confirm that.

Scott has not publicly spoken about Myers. “Senator Scott looks forward to discussing Mr. Myers’ nomination” during his Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee confirmation hearing, Scott spokeswoman Sarah Schwirian said April 1.
There was no discussion during that hearing. Without any debate, Myers was recommended by the committee for confirmation on a 14-12 party-line vote. He awaits the approval of the full Senate.

Scott voted for Myers. His office has not responded to a request for comment since.
 

James K

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Ug.
Typical corrupt politicians, and his bad choices to lead government agencies. :roll:

----
And unrelated, but personally I believe commercial entities (such as AccuWeather) should have to pay NOAA for the weather data they are using to make money off.
 
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This man isn't worthy to lead NOAA/NWS IMHO. I see him as a typical corrupt politician, or political wannabe who wants to get his hands on all of the free data that they use daily to make money off for their corporation(s), and I can easily see all of that wonderful data that we taxpayers get for free being charged to see and use it.

I agree with James in that companies, like Accucrap(Weather), TWC/WU, etc. should do one of two things: One, be charged for using said data, or two, make your in-house models from scratch and get their own independent data from non-government sources.
 

rdale

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And unrelated, but personally I believe commercial entities (such as AccuWeather) should have to pay NOAA for the weather data they are using to make money off.
First part was good - but 'splain that line of thinking for me? :) So if you chase storms and sell your clips to a TV station for $50, you should be required to pay to get live radar? Or the forecast models?
 

James K

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@rdale:
No, I'm talking about a large commercial entity taking the weather data itself, re-packaging it and making millions off it.
You using the same data to go find/chase/record a storm, then selling the resulting video (which I would consider a unique 'product') is different :)
 

Steve Miller

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This is how the gov't is actually an economic driver. In every sector/agency of the gov't data is available to private companies who then exploit it. If you change the role of the government to that of one that charges for products that are already paid for by taxes, well, then things break down.

The scary thing is the gov't is behind the 8-ball and now buying their scrubbed products back from private organizations. THIS should be where the free part comes in.
 
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rdale

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@rdale:
No, I'm talking about a large commercial entity taking the weather data itself, re-packaging it and making millions off it.
As Steve notes - that's the role of government :) And while I'm no fanboi of AW - they are FAR more than just 'repackaging' it. How would you draw the line? As a private sector met I make money by taking NWS data and creating my own forecasts and selling them. How much can I make before you start making me pay for the NWS data?
 

James K

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@rdale:
Steve Miller (who every time I see the name, I think of a band .lol. ) does have some valid points there.

Though if I had to just pick a number, I'd say anything over $1-million/year ... that should be high enough to not affect the small-businessmen?
(but if such a thing was even practical to do, it would really be something that'd have to be researched/figured out by a professional ..... not a nobody like myself LOL.LOL )
 

rdale

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Ha :) The issue there is how do you determine how much someone makes because of it? Can you imagine if RadarScope got charged every time someone viewed the radar? And then passed that on to the customers? :)
 

James K

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@rdale:
If it was to be done, I think therein lies the 'how to do it' problem.
Especially when you start thinking about a person/company (say a TV or radio station for example) that makes their money "indirectly" - from commercials that run before/during the forecast... would you consider the whole revenue from those ads? or just part of it since they're part of a longer newscast?

Ofcourse knowing government .LOL. they'd probably bungle the whole thing anyway...needing to set up a committee to study it, then create a new office to run it (and in the long end up spending more than whatever amount it brought in)
 
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Bill Barlow

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My first professional forecasting job out of college was with AccuWeather in Sept 1977. There weren't any women working as forecasters back then from what I can remember. Back then I believe there were about 15-20 forecasters working there. But I quickly found out that the Penn State meteorologists got to advance faster in the company than non-Penn State grads, like me from the University of Utah. So I left in the fall of 1978 and never looked back. When I was there, Barry wasn't with the company. It was run by Joel, his brother Evan, Joe Sobel and Elliot Abrahms. I then eventually got into the NWS in early 1986 and worked there for 31 years before retiring in January 2017 at 62-the day Trump was sworn in. This guy (B Myers) would be trying to automate and downsize the NWS, but hopefully he won't get confirmed or Congress won't go along with his downsizing proposals.
 
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