Rep. Peter DeFazio says “people will die” from GOP cuts to NOAA, disaster response programs

House GOP still says accurate weather forecasting and hurricane tracking are luxuries America can’t afford

Last month, Climate Progress reported on House Republicans’ shortsighted attempt to obliterate funding for new environmental monitoring satellites””the sole source of some data for weather and climate forecasters.

On Tuesday, in its latest three-week extension of government spending, the GOP, apparently not content with the depth of its evisceration, upped the ante by voting to cut an additional $115 million from NOAA’s Acquisition account.  CAPAF’s Michael Conathan has the story.

As we wrote in February after the initial cuts passed the House:

At least an 18-month gap in coverage will be unavoidable without adequate funding for new polar-orbiting satellites this year. More troubling, taking an acquisition program offline and then restarting the process at a later date would lead to cost increases of as much as three to five times the amount the government would have to spend for the same product today.

So here’s the choice: Spend $700 million this year for continuous service or $2 billion to $3.5 billion at some point in the future for the same equipment and a guaranteed service interruption.

The tragic events in Japan serve as the most recent reminder that betting against Mother Nature is a losing proposition, yet House Republicans seem intent on insisting they can protect Americans without adequate information. They know the hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods are coming. Apparently we simply can’t afford to know when.

— Michael Conathan is the Director of Oceans Policy at the Center for American Progress. This is cross-posted at Science Progress.

ThinkProgress notes in a post on its interview with Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR):

DeFazio represents Oregon’s 4th district, where the tsunami devastated a local harbor and swept more than four people out to sea. DeFazio told ThinkProgress that furloughs at NOAA and other cuts to “our defense” against natural disasters were “crazy stuff” that would weaken the federal government’s already outdated disaster response system:”If you cut on detection of tidal waves, volcanic eruptions, severe weather events, weather buoys, satellite observation and weather patterns, those sorts of things, people will die. People will die from tornadoes in the Northwest, hurricanes or volcanic eruption or earthquakes. They are also cutting on preparedness funds that go down to the local organization down to the cities and counties, down to the first responders who need equipment.”

… NOAA employees have said the cuts will damage their “ability to upgrade tsunami models and will put considerable stress on watchstanders ability to react.” Yet Republican lawmakers have defended the cuts: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has said there is simply no money to fund the programs and Rep. Scott King (R-IA) warned yesterday that “we often over-react to natural disasters.”

See also “Could it happen here? GOP budget cuts would lead to furloughs at tsunami warning centers, undermining their ‘ability to react’

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21 Responses to Rep. Peter DeFazio says “people will die” from GOP cuts to NOAA, disaster response programs

  1. catman306 says:

    The National Weather Service:
    “In 1870 the Weather Bureau was established with the mission “to provide for taking meteorological observations at the military stations in the interior of the continent and at other points in the States and Territories…and for giving notice on the northern (Great) Lakes and on the seacoast by magnetic telegraph and marine signals, of the approach and force of storms.” The agency was placed under the Secretary of War because “military discipline would probably secure the greatest promptness, regularity, and accuracy in the required observations.” Within the Department of War, it was assigned to the U.S. Army Signal Corps under Brigadier General Albert J. Myer. General Myer gave the National Weather Service its first name: The Division of Telegrams and Reports for the Benefit of Commerce.[4]

    The agency first became a civilian enterprise in 1890, when it became part of the Department of Agriculture; it would later be moved to the Department of Commerce in 1940.[5] The first Weather Bureau radiosonde was launched in Massachusetts in 1937, which went on to replace all routine aircraft observation within two years. The Bureau was renamed the National Weather Service in 1967, as part of the Environmental Science Services Administration, which became the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) three years later with the enactment of the National Environmental Policy Act.”

    Perhaps the military would like to make up the lost programs because “military discipline would probably secure the greatest promptness, regularity, and accuracy in the required observations.” The military world needs accurate weather and climate information as much as do the commercial and scientific worlds.

    The Division of Telegrams and Reports for the Benefit of Commerce, indeed.
    How come these anti-science Congressmen are sabotaging our modern, military, commercial, and scientific civilization?

  2. Scrooge says:

    Cutting noaa means everybody loses. Besides missing warnings the other side is if someone is responsible for issuing warnings and they haven’t got proper information, they normally they go with the path of least regret. That means more false alarms which by themselves will cost more than what they want to cut.

  3. Well, they’re willing to let children die for lack of medical care… simply because those children were born to poor parents.

    They’re willing to have the elderly at risk of starvation by ‘privatizing’ social security.

    These guys are not for the people, they’re for the elite.

    So blind are they that they don’t think the elite are vulnerable to hurricanes, tsunamis and earthquakes, much less climate change. Those things, like taxes, only apply to the little people.

  4. Scrooge says:

    They normally they… I thought I proof read. Guess not.

  5. phil says:

    If meltdown, staff-incapacitating radiation, aftershock; UAVs could drop water/snow. Tethered blimps/balloons could provide sensor platforms. If a site harmless parachute existed, ice/water/snow could be parachuted in. If snow flakes and not clumps, lower velocity snow can be dropped from bombers. Forest fighter bombers can drop higher veloicty rain (calm seas?). I’d guess military and forest fire bombers are better in a storm? Over months ahead, surviving staff could train replacements.
    A “swing-set” minus the swings, may be a site bluebrint for piping or pumping water to reactor…roofs. The two tall telephone towers or whatever, could be constructed on opposite sides of a reactor core, 200m away from walls. A PVC or carbon fibre narrow pipe could be stretched between the towers/poles with holes drilled halfway to drizzle water. If one pole were lower, gravity would do the work once water is pumped up the taller tower. The lower tower could be a heavy vehicle or mobile platform cabable of pivoting away from directly above the reactor or to an advacent reactors. Using the wind, a bridge could be built for the water cannons to keep humans a few metres away. A Terminator robot might be able to operate a water cannon. Earth-moving construction equipment could make the hills higher if a water cannon site.
    A permanent overhead railing system (like used in “Under Seige”), if prebuild somewhere, could be assembled onsite overhead Reactors 1-4, and dump buckets of fresh/salt water.
    Tokyo may need ducttape. It will be advisible at some point or regularly to give the site personnel some fresh soil. Natural gas has a steady pipeline of fugitive emissions reduction technologies, new sleeve and sensors that could probable be mandated like vehicle standards. Is LNG the same or are there some inherently emissive processes?

  6. Bill W says:

    The GOP doesn’t just want to shoot the messenger, they want to take away the ink and paper used to write the messages.


    GOP science and environmental policy: “LA-LA-LA-LA-LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”

  7. 350 Now says:

    A bit of comic relief for 3/17/11’s edition of:

  8. Barry says:

    Slightly OT: Another impact of fossil fuel climate pollution looks like thinning ozone.

    “A cold stratosphere is the key to Arctic ozone depletion. And the Arctic stratosphere was especially cold this winter — in some parts below –85° Celsius, Rex reports. He suspects that global warming played a role in the high-altitude cooling, because when greenhouse gases trap heat near Earth’s surface, that energy doesn’t rise to warm the stratosphere.”

    from “record ozone thinning in arctic” at

    GOP just figures we can let ozone holes drift around over north america and citizens will be able to fend for themselves. I mean anyone with a brain can clearly tell when UV-B is spiking. No need for pointy heads.

  9. Wes Rolley says:

    Those who take the time to follow CNN or other channels, nightly news, etc. should be noticing that there has been an increase in ads for natural gas and oil during all of the nuclear coverage., etc.

    If we can’t get you one way, we will get you another.

  10. Bob Pasken says:

    Maybe this is yet another attempt to privatize the Weather Service. I point out this was proposed by Rick Santorum on April 14, 2005, when Santorum introduced the National Weather Service Duties Act of 2005, so that AccuWeather, a company based in Santorum’s home state and a major contributor, could perform the same function commercially.

  11. Zetetic says:

    @ catman306:
    Good point!
    I don’t see why not, the US Military is already taking the lead on deploying renewables in many sectors, more so than most of the rest of the country and they do already monitor the weather.

    Best of all we know that there are only three things that the republicans won’t cut… the military, fossil fuel subsidies, and their own paychecks. Therefore we know that the military’s funding probably won’t get cut for coming up with inconvenient facts, like NASA and NOAA.

  12. PSU Grad says:

    Bob Pasken @10 beat me to it, but I thought Santorum’s bill would limit the NWS to data gathering and eliminate all analysis capabilities so AccuWeather and others could take that over. NOAA would still have satellites and weather observations (data gathering). I remember calling his office in protest, and was essentially confronted by two staff members who must have stopped their science education in the 6th grade. Two more ignorant individuals I’ve yet to meet.

    So who do House Republicans think will launch the satellites? I don’t think AccuWeather has any interest in that, though it’s possible its ambitions have changed.

  13. David Fox says:


    Well, the Navy is fully “climate change aware”. From Science Friday…

    “Is climate change a national security issue? Rear Adm. David Titley, a meteorologist and Navy oceanographer, discusses how melting glaciers, changing sea ice and rising sea levels might affect Navy operations in the Arctic and around the world — and how the Navy is preparing.”

    Its a good interview. Titley used to be a denier and he talks a bit about his coming to his senses in this interview.

  14. PSU Grad says:

    Though some here may not want to hear this, I think it will take either a press conference by the Joint Chiefs, or a joint address by Obama and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs (or whatever protocol is acceptable) detailing the risks we face. Somehow, the military will have to come out and say this is a real issue, that it affects and threatens our national security, and that we need to deal with it now.

    That, and I believe that alone, will shut the deniers up overnight. Literally, overnight. I don’t see anything else that will do it.

  15. dhogaza says:

    PSU Grad:

    but I thought Santorum’s bill would limit the NWS to data gathering and eliminate all analysis capabilities so AccuWeather and others could take that over.

    Yes, Santorum’s notion was that taxpayers would pay for all of the data gathering, but that NOAA would be prohibited from using it to make forecasts and other analysis, so that consumers would be forced to buy such from the private sector, in particular, AccuWeather, one of his constituents.

    It went nowhere fast, but I bet if it were introduced today’s House it would’ve passed in a flash, though not in the Senate.

  16. Jay Alt says:

    A cavalier attitude has grown with regard to weather satellites. In 2007 a hurricane tracker called QuickSat was failing with no replacement foreseen. The new head of NOAA’s Miami H. tracking group, Bill Proenza, told the press that losing this asset could hurt forecasts. It brought attention to the aging state of the overall satellite fleet.

    As with AGW, this was news politicians preferred not to think about. A firestorm of protest arose against his statement, including some from in his group- (people after his job?). They said loosing the satellite wouldn’t hurt forecasts at all! He soon lost his job.

    But I recall reading a news coverage years before, when QuickSat was first launched. The justification for spending millions of dollars to launch it into space was safety. It was designed to improve intensity estimates and landfall predictions. Especially on a few hurricanes which might change their course right before coming ashore and/or during the night. So I didn’t buy the all criticism of Proenza, even from Jeff Masters.

  17. Lore says:

    Talk about cuts, solar energy research is proposed to be cut while nuclear energy is being expanded four fold. More follow the money.

    Here is a 9:00 minute segment this morning on CNBC Squawk Box with moderator and co-host Joe Kernen, right wing apologist for big business and die hard AGW denier. He is speaking with Rep. Inslee, Sustainable Energy & Environmental Coalition Co-Chair. Joe’s remarks, 3:50 into the discussion, are straight out of the box skeptical talking points. Then Joe goes onto compare Republican Congressional votes against scientists facts as his weight of proof that there is nothing to CO2 and the climate change debate. His appeal to Huckleberry authority had me laughing right out of my chair.

    Isn’t it wonderful to see that big business has got your back?

  18. Mike Roddy says:

    The Kochs and the timber companies went after DeFazio last election, and I’m glad he fended them off.

    They’ll spin this as false and alarmist, and use it in attack ads, though of course everything he says is literally true. Let’s salute his courage instead.

  19. Some European says:

    Sigh… here goes:

    I know from a reliable source that Al Qaeda has been working for the past three years on a project to influence weather patterns in order to generate up to 7 Cat.5 hurricanes per year over the Atlantic. Their plan is to destroy Miami, New York and London by late 2014. They are also aiming at the offshore oil rigs in the gulf of Mexico that provide thousands of jobs to American workers, generate billions of dollars in revenue and provide homeland energy security. This is an urgent danger posed to the American people and we need to stop it!
    Therefore we need to increase the funding to patriottic weather prediction services like the National Atmospheric and Atmospheric Administration. But some bureaucrats in Washington are now trying to slash its funding. If you are proud of being an American and want to protect our great nation’s sovereignty, step up and demand the bureaucrats to keep their HANDS OFF our hurricane warning service!

    Copy/paste – anyone?

  20. Anonymous says:

    DeFazio, together with Jay Inslee of Seattle one of America’s best Representatives, was opposed by the Wingnut Republican Arthur Robinson, who founded the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine which sounds impressive until you find out it’s just a bunch of outbuildings and relatives on his ranch that forms the epicenter of ignorance in Oregon (maybe 1 4-year college within 100 miles).

    Robinson is the man behind the infamous “Oregon Petition” where he used fraud in sending out a “paper” debunking climate science on letterhead, type and everything else identical to an actual National Academy of Sciences paper, then enclosing a petition to reject Kyoto that 32,000 signed.

    As Skeptical Science points out, 32,000 sounds like a lot until you realize their base criteria was a Bachelor of Science degree, something about 32 million Americans have, meaning they got 1 in 1000 to sign. (Similarly, Skeptical Science also points out that 8500 papers somehow skeptical of AGW are countered by about 850,000 that are not, meaning another 1 in 1000 ratio).

    Robinson’s main credentials, according to his campaign, were that he is a “Man of integrity,” yet another example of Republicans saying the exact opposite of what is true.

    DeFazio’s win is like California’s Prop 23 win – these Terminators will be back, and we need to prepare for that as much as possible.

  21. Scrooge says:

    The military is usually ahead of society when it comes to making changes. Other than when W was president and wanted their opinion then fired those who didn’t agree with him. The military always has to adjust for the future and they normally don’t let politics get in the way. Their biggest challenges are getting the funding they need. So since the military is aware of consequences now society as a whole will get it eventually. Let’s just hope they get it in time.