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Nassau County Legislature

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Denenberg & mariners slam proposed legislation which seeks to limit public access to National Weather Service data

January 18, 2006

Nassau County Legislator Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick) was joined today at the Wantagh Marina in Wantagh by members of the Long Island boating community and the U.S. Coast Guard to express opposition to proposed legislation in Washington that seeks to limit the information that is made available from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Weather Service (NWS). The bill, called the National Weather Service Duties Act of 2005, is sponsored by Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. The bill would ban the NWS and NOAA from "competing" with private entities by restricting their ability to communicate with the public.

Nassau County Legislator Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick)
Pictured from left to right are Richard H. Teuten, Post Commodore of the Wantagh Bay Yacht Club; Florence A. Teuten of the Wantagh Bay Yacht Club; Angela Paul, Commodore of the Wantagh Bay Yacht Club; Joseph Paul of the Wantagh Bay Yacht Club; Edwin Beyer of the Wantagh Bay Yacht Club; and Captain Hal Gold

"Both of these agencies are funded by our taxpayers and the information they provide should therefore be publicly accessible," said Legislator Denenberg, who contacted both New York State senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles Schumer to urge them to oppose the bill.

This bill would make it unlawful for the NWS and NOAA to publish "user-friendly" weather data on its website because it might draw people away from the offerings of companies like Accuweather. This would allow private companies to profit at the expense of the taxpayers, and restrict access to a vital public service.

"Commercial and private fishermen, commercial and recreational boat captains, coastal communities and numerous others rely on the critical information provided by these two agencies," said Denenberg. "The free and unrestricted access to this information could literally mean the difference between life and death for those people living near the coast and utilizing our harbors, bays and ocean.

Captain Hal M Gold, who carries a USCG Masters License, a Private Pilot's License, and is also an active member in the US Coast Guard Auxiliary for the past 23 years stated that "on Long Island alone we have thousands of boaters, pilots, and many others that will be adversely affected by this new law, should it pass. I check with the NWS every time I consider getting the boat under way or flying an airplane. As a commercial Towing and Salvage Captain for a national waterborne towing company for the past 14 years, the NOAA services are critical to my safe departure and eventual return to port each time I get underway. The loss of this service would prove extremely detrimental to the recreational and commercial maritime community," said Gold.

"The passage of this bill would be detrimental to the boating community," said Angela Paul, Commodore of the Wantagh Bay Yacht Club. "Boaters depend on the NWS and NOAA forecasts to ensure the safety of their lives and lives of their families before heading out with their boats and securing their boats in case of impending small craft advisories, gale warnings, storms and hurricanes. We oppose the restrictions that this bill implies,"

"Certainly, the weather-related catastrophes of this past year show how exposed oceanfront communities are to hurricanes and other natural disasters," said Denenberg. "Critical information regarding weather forecasts should never be restricted."

For more information about this proposed bill, contact Legislator Denenberg's office at 516-571-6219.