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Context of 'March 29, 2004: NOAA Administrator Reminds Employees that All Communications to Congress Must Go through the Commerce Department'

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) routes all media inquiries about an article in the journal Science (see December 7, 2003) that was authored by two top government scientists to appointee James R. Mahoney, instead of allowing the media to communicate with the scientists directly. The article in question concludes that “there is no doubt that the composition of the atmosphere is changing because of human activities, and today greenhouse gases are the largest human influence on global climate.” In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Mahoney, who is serving as both assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA deputy administrator, attempts to discredit the finding of the article. Mahoney tells the newspaper, “That’s their assertion. They are extremely competent, and there are many in the climate community who would agree with them. That’s not surprising, but there are many others who would disagree with them. My own view is somewhat more open-minded, and from my perspective we don’t really understand these things as well as we might.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 12/4/2003]

Entity Tags: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, James R. Mahoney

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, re-circulates a memorandum that was issued in 2001 by then Commerce Secretary Donald Evans, which required that all communications to Congress be vetted by the agency’s Office of Legislative Affairs. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 45 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Conrad C. Lautenbacher

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), officially implements a new NOAA-wide media policy. The new policy, written by NOAA Public Affairs Director Jordan St. John, government lawyers, and Commerce Department policymakers, gives the NOAA’s public affairs offices ultimate authority over all agency communications. [Raw Story, 10/4/2005; Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 31 pdf file; Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 10 pdf file] The media policy will become more restrictive after Hurricane Katrina (see September 29, 2005).

Entity Tags: Jordan St. John, Conrad C. Lautenbacher

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Global Warming

Department of Commerce press officer Catherine Trinh rejects a request for a media interview with a climate scientist. (The identity of this scientist has not been revealed.) “Let’s pass on this one,” she says in an e-mail to an official at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The official asks in response, “Can I please have a reason?” In another e-mail, Trinh again rejects a request for an interview. “Let’s pass on this… interview, but rather refer him to [redacted] of the [redacted] at [redacted],” she writes. “CEQ [White House Council of Environmental Quality] suggested him as a good person to talk on this subject.” The e-mails, obtained by Salon in 2006, reveal that requests for media interviews about climate change are being screened by officials at the Commerce Department (NOAA is part of the Department of Commerce). When asked by Salon if Commerce reviews all requests for media interviews with scientists, Richard Mills, the department’s director of public affairs, states, “I wouldn’t characterize it like that.” [Salon, 9/19/2006]

Entity Tags: Catherine Trinh, Richard Mills, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Global Warming

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issues its 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season outlook, predicting that there will be 12 to 15 tropical storms, with seven to nine becoming hurricanes, and three to five of those becoming major hurricanes. Retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., the NOAA Director, says, “Forecaster confidence that this will be an active hurricane season is very high.” [NOAA Magazine, 5/16/2005]

Entity Tags: Conrad C. Lautenbacher, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

National Weather Service (NWS) Regional Public Affairs Director Jim Teet sends an email to employees of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) informing them that all requests for contact from the national media must “now receive prior approval by” the Commerce Department. According to the memo, when a media request is made, employees must obtain the “name of the reporter and their affiliation; [t]heir deadline and contact phone number; [n]ame of individual being requested for the interview and purpose of the interview; [a]dditional background about the interview subject, and expertise of requested interviewee on this subject,” and then provide this information to the NWS press office. From there, the request shall be forwarded to the Commerce Department’s public relations office, whose staff will then decide how to handle the media request. According to an unnamed NOAA employee, “prior to this policy change, if a media organization called our office (or any other National Weather Service office) and wanted an interview, we would do our best to accommodate the request as quickly as possible. While often such requests are from local media, local offices do get requests from national media if a weather event is big enough to be a national story.” But NOAA Public Affairs Director Jordan St. John insists that “the policy has been in existence all along,” and that he had rewritten it in June 2004 (see June 28, 2004) with lawyers and Commerce Department policymakers. But NOAA employees tell the Raw Story that they had never been informed of these restrictions before, and some suggest that the timing of Teet’s email may be related to the political impact of hurricane Katrina. According to Raw Story, there is a substantial difference between the June 2004 policy and the one emailed by Teet. “[T]he emailed policy states that routine contact with national media outlets has to be pre-cleared with the Commerce Department, requiring extensive information about the journalist and media outlet [while] [t]he media policy St. John provided does not stipulate such restrictions on interacting with national media. Nor does it state that the Commerce Department must approve media requests,” Raw Story reports. [Raw Story, 10/4/2005; New Republic, 2/11/2006; Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 31 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Jordan St. John, National Weather Service, Jim Teet

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

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