Editorial: Eye of the storm / Sen. Santorum's weather bill should blow by
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Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum confounds the saying, often attributed to Mark Twain, that everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it. Of course, the Republican senator doesn't actually want to do anything about the weather -- that would require a faith-based initiative directly involving the Almighty -- but the way it is reported.
He has introduced Senate Bill 786 that he said in a statement will "modernize the description of the National Weather Service's roles within the national weather enterprise, so that it reflects today's reality in which the National Weather Service and the commercial weather industry both play important parts in providing weather products and services to the nation."
Cut through this fog and you get the fact that Sen. Santorum wants to limit the information the National Weather Service can provide the public. Fortunately, this suggestion seems to have gone over like a lead balloon on a day without wind. Private pilots are just one group alarmed about this proposed bill; judging by the mail to the Post-Gazette, ordinary taxpayers are as well.
To be fair to Sen. Santorum, he doesn't think he is breaking new ground but going back to a situation that applied before.
The National Weather Service falls under the auspices of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Since 1991, the National Weather Service had followed a policy meant to prevent competition with the commercial weather industry. But in December 2004, NOAA decided that the policy was too restrictive and thought that some competition might be good.
To which we say, let the sun shine on free enterprise and public enterprise both. After all, Republicans are the ones who always preach the virtues of competition; they say government should be run more like private industry.
So what is Sen. Santorum doing? One thing he would do with the success of this bill would be to favor the interests of private entities, such as AccuWeather, which is based in State College, Pa. AccuWeather has a great reputation and it can succeed on its own merits; it shouldn't need Sen. Santorum to act as its rainmaker.
We don't buy the argument that this bill will concentrate the resources of the National Weather Service on its core functions. If the Postal Service can compete with the likes of Federal Express, the National Weather Service should be allowed to compete with commercial weather forecasters. In any event, the taxpayers need to get the maximum bang for their bucks. This attempt to limit the National Weather Service is all flash and no lightning.
First Published May 6, 2005 12:00 am