PNS Daily Newscast - June 20, 2019 

The Trump administration finalizes a coal-friendly emissions rule for power plants. Also on today's rundown: A new development in the debate over the 2020 Census citizenship question; and why "Juneteenth" is an encore celebration in Florida and other states.

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Hurricanes Call Trump Budget, Personnel Policies into Question

Critics charge that a failure to staff federal agencies is hampering the response to hurricane damage in Puerto Rico. (Dept. of Homeland Security)
Critics charge that a failure to staff federal agencies is hampering the response to hurricane damage in Puerto Rico. (Dept. of Homeland Security)
October 2, 2017

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – President Donald Trump is defending his response to Hurricane Maria, but the Union of Concerned Scientists says the problems are deeper than this crisis.

According to Andrew Rosenberg, former regional administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service, the White House doesn't seem to understand the role of scientists and professional staff at technical agencies like NOAA.

Rosenberg says before the hurricanes, Trump was cutting the budget and under-staffing NOAA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Then, the storms hit.

"All of a sudden, everyone says, 'Well, we need the federal agencies,' even people who have been arguing, sometimes for decades,” Rosenberg points out. “Everything from NOAA to the Corps of Engineers, to the Department of Interior, to HUD."

Trump criticized the mayor of San Juan after she faulted what she described as a slow federal response to a desperate humanitarian crisis. The president says his appointees are doing a great job under tough conditions.

But the administration has been slow to fill thousands of high-level federal vacancies. Trump has faulted Congress for failing to approve his nominations, but Rosenberg points out most of the positions don't require Senate approval.

He says it's hard to tell if the White House isn't doing its job or doesn't think these appointees are necessary. Either way, he says, the result is the same.

"There's no nominees,” he says simply. "There's no nominees in many cases. And what you really need is the professionals in those agencies, the career staff who know what needs to be done, know how to do it."

One big problem seems to be the scientists' belief in climate change. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recently criticized his agency's staff, saying many did not agree with the Trump administration's political goals.

Rosenberg says Zinke is, in effect, ignoring reality.

"Everything from severe weather to the heat, to droughts, to wildfires,” he states. “It's not just the hurricanes. This is the world we're going to live in. And that means that we have to have a federal government that's really committed."

Trump will be in Morgantown on Wednesday for an invitation only event.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV