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Old 07-24-2005
dshirk dshirk is offline
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Bill to end NOAA and National Weather Service access

If you value the weather information provided by the National Weather Service and NOAA then please read this message and write your Senators. I know this is long but it is vital that you understand pending legislation that could take away your free weather information access. This is no hoax, I provided all the links below to check it out for yourself.

Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania has introduced legislation that would prohibit NOAA and the National Weather Service from providing any information to the general public other than “The preparation and issuance of severe weather forecasts and warnings designed for the protection of life and property of the general public.”

If this bill passes, even though all the information paid for by our tax dollars will still be provided for free to commercial weather providers, NOAA and the National Weather Service will not be permitted to disseminate the information to the public. The bill reads “COMPETITION WITH PRIVATE SECTOR.—The Secretary of Commerce shall not provide, or assist other entities in providing, a product or service (other than a product or service described in subsection (a)(1)) that is or could be provided by the private sector unless— (1) the Secretary determines that the private sector is unwilling or unable to provide such product or service; or (2) the United States Government is obligated to provide such product or service under international aviation agreements to provide meteorological services and exchange meteorological information.” **Note** Section (a)(1) refers to severe weather forecasts and warnings mentioned above.

As a recreational boater, I rely heavily on the radio broadcasts by the National Weather Service and on the NOAA weather website. I get wind direction and speed, wave heights, and many other data points that make my boating safe. But boaters won’t be the only people affected in a potentially life threatening manner, how about mountain climbers and backpackers, who need to know what kind of weather to expect. How about farmers who need to predict when to bring in the crops? Not to mention the backyard barbeques and family outings we all like to keep dry and enjoyable. Why should we have to pay a private business for the data our government is currently giving to both them and us for free? If this bill passes the weather information we enjoy today will only be free to commercial enterprises.

Please join me in opposing this legislation. I spent many years involved in government affairs in the financial services industry and know that response from constituents will impact the outcome of the bill. I would hope that more than 2500 people from each state will respond to their Senators and oppose this legislation. That is a tiny number of people in comparison to the population but even that many will make a huge impact on the outcome of this bill. If every one of them responds to Sen. Santorum directly in addition to their own senators, he will get opposition email from 125,000 people.

To be sure you are not getting this too late, please check the status of the bill before responding. You can do that by clicking on the first link below. Then if you want to read the bill yourself click the second link. If you are a boater, click the link from Boat US for a sample letter you can simply copy and paste into the email forms provided on your Senator’s web site. If you are not a boater but belong to a farming, mountaineering or any other affected organization, contact the organization and let them know what is going on. This is very bad news, but is probably not on the radar of most organizations (pardon the pun).

If you have never written your Senator before, don’t worry, they want to hear from you and make it easy to do so by following the links on their web sites. Just look for the “contact me” or “e-mail me” links on the sites and then fill in the information on their e-mail web form and click send. If you would like, you can add yourself to their e-mail lists to keep up to date with issues important to them, and presumably to you as their constituent.

At the time of this writing the bill had been introduced in the Senate (on 4/14/2005) and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

Status of S. 786:
You will need to go to the Thomas site below and select “Summary and Status Information about Bills and Resolutions” in the search in box and select “Bill Number” in the Search for box then enter S.786, finally you are looking for the 109th Congress.

http://thomas.loc.gov/home/search.html

For the full text of Senate Bill 786 in PDF:
http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=109_cong_bills&docid=f:s786is.tx t.pdf

Boat US website for sample letter:
http://www.boatus.com/gov/Sample786ltr.doc

Find and contact your Senator here. After entering your state in the first screen you will get the names of your Senators with a link to a Web Form to email them:
http://www.senate.gov/

Contact other members of the Commerce Committee here, most bills get killed in committee, be sure all of these Senators know we don’t want any form or version of this coming back in another bill:
http://commerce.senate.gov/about/membership.html

Find your Representative here, but remember, you are only asking your Representative to be sure a similar bill doesn’t get introduced or passed in the House, House members can’t vote on a Senate bill:
http://www.house.gov/writerep/

Thanks for your participation
David Shirk
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