What’s in a name? A lot, apparently, if you work at a government-run tsunami warning center. Although some say it’s much ado about nothing.

In August, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) renamed one its facilities in Alaska that’s designed to warn large swaths of the coastal U.S. about impending tsunamis.

The West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center would from then on be known as the National Tsunami Warning Center.

The name change caused some angst within the ranks of NOAA, particularly for those who worked in the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii.

Not only were there initial concerns about operations, but there was also worry that Hawaii’s center might not get as much funding anymore.

A nonprofit whistleblower group — Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) — has been pushing this narrative, citing anonymous sources inside NOAA as well as internal memos.

PEER sent out a press release Wednesday saying that the Hawaii warning center had been relegated to “secondary status” as a result of the name change.

The nonprofit said calling the Alaska facility the national center also will lead to confusion when it comes to warning coastal areas about potential tsunamis.

For instance, emergency planners might not know whether to rely on information from the Alaska facility or the one located in Hawaii, called the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch said a lot of this comes down to a “cat fight” between the Alaska and Hawaii centers, which are NOAA’s only two tsunami warning facilities in the U.S.

He says the name change came from an executive decision made by NOAA administrators without the input of tsunami experts who actually issue the warnings.

“This wouldn’t have happened if Senator Inouye were still on the scene,” Ruch said, referring to last year’s passing of Dan Inouye, Hawaii’s most senior statesman.

“He was extremely powerful and in essence controlled a good portion of NOAA’s budget. Since he’s gone the state of the Hawaii center has been downgraded.”

But NOAA officials say PEER’s assessment of the impacts of renaming the Alaska center is bogus.

Scott Smullen, deputy director of NOAA Communications and External Affairs, said in an email that the nonprofit’s criticisms are “baseless” and are a “disservice to the public.”

“We simplified the name of our center in Alaska to better reflect the fact that its warning area of responsibility includes the entire U.S. mainland, not just the West Coast and Alaska,” Smullen said. “This change was well-supported internally and by our partners, and in no way affects operations at the center in Hawaii or its staff and customers.”

The Alaska center is responsible for issuing warnings for Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California as well as for the eastern coasts of the U.S. and Canada.

Hawaii’s facility, on the other hand, is responsible for Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands and many countries around the Pacific Rim.

Smullen said NOAA is expanding the center’s authority to include the entire Caribbean region, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Hawaii facility also serves as a backup to the Alaska center.

He added that NOAA is currently trying to expand the territories the Hawaii facility covers to include the Caribbean, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Pacific Tsunami Warning Center Director Chip McCreary echoed much of what Smullen said, although he admits that when the name change was first announced he was worried about the future implications.

In particular, McCreary wondered if future appropriations would be put at risk because someone in Congress might question why the U.S. have a Pacific warning center in addition to a national center. He quickly dismissed this notion as little more than a hypothetical.

“This is not being viewed as a diminishment of any of our responsibilities,” McCreary said. “Renaming has had no negative effect on us. Right now we’re moving into our new facility on Ford Island so we’re in great shape right now in terms of the facility and the support that we’ve been getting.”

McCreary was referring to NOAA’s new 35-acre campus on Ford Island that houses 15 of the agency’s offices that will be run by 700 staffers.

The facility was built using $331 million in federal stimulus dollars and was the largest capital facility project in NOAA’s history. It was dedicated as the Daniel K. Inouye Regional Center.

This influx of federal cash for NOAA highlights another facet of the debate over the name change. Hawaii’s federal delegation is expected to bring home lots of federal dollars, much the way Inouye did before his death.

It’s reasonable to assume that any threat to this funding would be met with loud cries from the delegation.

In fact, according to his chief of staff Andy Winer, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz repeatedly inquired about the name change to make sure there were no negative impacts to the Hawaii facility as a result.

Winer, who is a former appointee to NOAA by President Barack Obama, said in an email that the agency’s response to Schatz was always the same, the name change wouldn’t change the operations at the Hawaii facility.

“If Senator Schatz learns of any information indicating a degradation in service at the (Pacific Tsunami Warning Center),” Winer said, “he will take immediate steps to address the problem.”

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