Former AccuWeather executive Barry Myers has decided to withdraw his nomination to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA.) Citing health reasons, Myers sent a letter to President Trump asking for his nomination to be rescinded earlier this week.
In his letter to President Trump obtained by the Washington Times, Myers wrote, “I owe so much to America, having started out as a poor kid in Philadelphia and endured tragic family circumstances. But by working hard, I was able to live out the American dream. Unfortunately, my medical issues have made that service to the nation impractical at this time.”
Myers had cleared a key hurdle to be appointed the Administrator of NOAA, which would include the National Weather Service. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee voted on a party-line vote, 14-12, approving his nomination that took place without debate. However, despite getting cleared by the committee on three separate occasions, the Senate never confirmed his nomination.
Myers had been part of the AccuWeather leadership for nearly 30 years before selling-off all of his interest in the company and its subsidiaries and affiliates in January. At first, he served as Executive Vice President and General Counsel; in 2007, he became CEO. Barry Myers’ brother, Joel Myers, remains the founder, President, and Chairman of the organization.
At the time he sold off his interests in AccuWeather, the company released a statement saying, “In accordance with the ethics pledge from Myers to the U.S. Office of Government Ethics and in his testimony and comments made to the U.S. Senate, he has fulfilled his commitment to fully divest himself of AccuWeather and of any and all related interests.”
However, with his family still owning and running the business, many continued to raise concerns about a potential conflict of interest.
“The many and clear conflicts of interest give me grave concerns about whether this nominee will truly serve the public’s interests,” said Kathryn Sullivan, a retired NASA astronaut and former chief scientist at NOAA who served as the agency’s administrator in the Obama administration from 2014 to 2017. “It strains credulity.”
Another Obama administration worker also expressed concern. Jane Lubchenco, an environmental scientist who served as the agency’s administrator in the Obama administration from 2009 to 2013, said she strongly opposes the nomination because of “his egregious conflicts of interest,” “his lack of scientific training,” and his “aggressive and sustained actions to undermine” the National Weather Service.
With a track record of recommending changes with the National Weather Service that would benefit private industry, such as AccuWeather, over the government agency, there was a concern that if Myers was appointed, he would make changes to the structure or products of the National Weather Service that could financially benefit his family.
From October 25, 2017 to February of this year, Timothy Gallaudet, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, had served as acting interim administrator for NOAA while being Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere at the US Department of Commerce. Since then, Dr. Neil Jacobs, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction, performing the duties of Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, has assumed the role. The NOAA Administrator role became vacant in October 2017 when President Obama’s administrator, Benjamin Friedman, left his post.