Republicans on Thursday announced that they would create a new weather agency to tackle climate change and improve the accuracy of weather reports in the face of a growing public backlash against government agencies and their officials.
The announcement by the House Natural Resources Committee comes as the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee plans to hold a hearing Thursday on the politicization of the National Weather Service.
Republicans have accused the agency of not being transparent enough about climate change, and a Republican-led House panel is considering several measures aimed at increasing transparency in the service.
“This is a huge opportunity for the House to get back to basics and make this agency more transparent,” Rep. Scott Garrett, the committee’s chairman, told The Hill.
“It is the responsibility of the agency, but also the responsibility and oversight of the administration.”
Rep. Steve Israel, a New Jersey Republican who chairs the House Science Committee, called on the administration to “immediately remove all restrictions” on the NWS.
The committee, which is in the process of establishing a new agency to oversee weather forecasting, was set to vote Thursday on legislation to fund the new agency, which would be a division of the Interior Department.
The legislation, which has not yet passed, would allocate up to $25 million for the new service, but the funding could be reduced.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat who has been critical of the weather agency, said in a statement that she was “shocked” by the news and would be “working with my colleagues in the House of Representatives to provide immediate relief to the American people.”
She called for the Nws to “return to the basics” and for the administration “to immediately lift its restrictions.”
The new agency would be tasked with developing “new technologies, more efficient operations, and increased transparency,” according to the House Appropriations Committee’s budget request for fiscal year 2018.
“The NWS is the only weather service in the nation that has not been transparent about the real impacts of climate change on our climate, weather, and life in general,” Rep (R-Calif.)
Mike Honda, the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, said.
“We need an independent agency that is going to put the public and the American taxpayer first.”
The NWS’ budget would be about $6.5 million, and its staff would be reduced by a total of 20 percent, to around 200.
The department would be given responsibility for monitoring air quality, climate change-related impacts, and “advancements in the forecasting and prediction of climate impacts and the impacts of extreme weather events,” the bill said.
The Nws “has been slow to acknowledge the real effects of climate and the threat it poses to our future,” Honda said.