Upcoming confirmation vote a threat to the integrity of the Climate Change Science Program


On December 5 the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of corporate lawyer Jane Luxton to the position of Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere (thus, also the NOAA deputy administrator).  If confirmed, Luxton would take the position previously held by Jim Mahoney, who retired last spring.  Mahoney was also the director of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program from 2002 until his retirement.  We raised concerns about this nomination in our September 26 post and in this morning’s Environment & Energy Daily.  Luxton has no apparent professional experience with climate change issues and, unlike all former directors of U.S. climate and global change research, she appears to have no scientific credentials.  Nothing personal here, really, but why is she even being considered for a position as director of the U.S. Government program that supports the nation’s scientific effort to understand global climate change and its potential consequences? 

The administration’s management structure for Climate Change Science and Technology assigns the position of Director of the Climate Change Science Program to the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere. (Scroll down to the organization chart.)

Environment & Energy Daily (by subscription) reports (excerpts):

Monday, December 4, 2006

Senate Commerce panel to expedite vote on NOAA pick
Lauren Morello, E&E Daily reporter

The Senate Commerce Committee meets tomorrow to consider the president’s
pick for a top position at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration that would potentially oversee the federal government’s
climate change science research effort.

Officially, Jane C. Luxton, now a partner at King & Spalding LLP, is the
Bush administration’s nominee for assistant secretary of Commerce for oceans
and atmosphere and deputy administrator of NOAA, posts vacant since James
Mahoney retired in April.

But since the White House announced Luxton’s nomination in September,
sources on and off the Hill have questioned whether the administration also
intends to appoint Luxton to head the Climate Change Science Program, as
Mahoney did during his tenure at NOAA. The program coordinates $2 billion in
research efforts across 13 federal agencies.

Committee aides from both parties said last week it was still unclear
whether the administration intends to appoint Luxton to head CCSP. And a
Commerce Department source said there was little information to share….

Despite the uncertainty, outgoing Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens
(R-Alaska) plans to push for a committee vote this week on Luxton’s
nomination and two others, a Republican aide said….

But a representative of one environmental group predicted the nomination
could run into trouble at tomorrow’s hearing.

“There is serious concern on both sides of the aisle about her competence,
especially considering her potential role in overseeing the climate change
science program,” said Julia Bovey of the Natural Resources Defense Council….

One area of concern is Luxton’s apparent lack of experience with climate and
oceans issues, said Rick Piltz, director of the advocacy group Climate
Science Watch and a former CCSP official. “As far as I can tell, she brings
nothing to the table as far oceanic or atmospheric” expertise, he said.

Bovey pointed to Luxton’s “ongoing relationship” with trade metals
associations “whose work is not, we believe, friendly to the environment” as
a red flag….

copyright E&E Publishing, LLC

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