Given the criticism from every quarter, former EPA Administrator Anne Burford took the proper step in resigning her appointment as chairman of the National Advisory Committee on Oceans and Atmosphere.
Mrs. Burford, widely considered an anti-environmentalist, lacked the traditional scientific qualifications to lead a committee that advises the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Further, she had disparaged the committee as ''a joke.''
On Tuesday, the House of Representatives had opposed the appointment by a 7 -to-1 margin. The Republican-controlled Senate the week before had expressed disapproval by nearly 4 to 1.
Although the resolutions were nonbinding, they amounted to a strong congressional rebuke. Yet, until yesterday Mrs. Burford's nomination was still on track.
Ironically, President Reagan's fiscal 1985 budget would abolish the committee altogether. In previous years, Congress has reinstated NACOA when the administration tried to eliminate it. The President, anticipating such a reinstatement, has apparently decided to stack the advisory committee.
NACOA, like the agency it advises, has been research-oriented. The administration would like to redirect it toward emphasizing services and resource development. Appointments to NACOA this year, in addition to that of Mrs. Burford, have systematically excluded research scientists.
Whether Congress again reinstates NACOA remains to be seen. Had she not resigned, Mrs. Burford might well have found herself out of a job. In any case, such maneuvering is no way to set priorities and goals for NOAA. It is hardly likely to increase public confidence in government.