Virginia fight over climate documents will continue

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II.
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II. (Steve Helber - AP)
  Enlarge Photo    
By Rosalind S. Helderman
Tuesday, October 5, 2010; 1:14 PM

RICHMOND - The University of Virginia said Monday that it would continue to fight state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II's efforts to obtain documents related to a climate scientist's work, just hours after Cuccinelli reissued a civil subpoena for the papers.

The new Civil Investigative Demand revives a contentious fight between Cuccinelli (R), a vocal global warming skeptic, and Virginia's flagship university over documents related to the research of Michael Mann, who worked at the university from 1999 to 2005. A judge blocked Cuccinelli's first bid to obtain the documents.

Mann, whose research concluded that the earth has experienced a rapid, recent warming, works at Penn State University.

Cuccinelli has been trying to force the public university, technically a client of his office, to turn over documents related to Mann's work since April. Cuccinelli has said he wants to see the documents to determine whether Mann committed fraud as he sought public dollars for his work.

But the university went to court rather than comply, and in August, a Charlottesville area judge set aside the attorney general's original demand.

In a new subpoena sent to the university last week, Cuccinelli asked that the school turn over all e-mails exchanged between Mann and 39 other scientists as well as between Mann and his secretaries and research associates.

But, unlike in April, when Cuccinelli asked for information about five of Mann's grant applications, this time the attorney general limited his inquiry to just one $214,700 grant that Mann received from the university, which is funded by the state.

He also laid out in writing why he believed Mann could be guilty of fraud, writing that two of Mann's research papers on global warming have come under "significant criticism."

Mann "knew or should have known" that they "contained false information, unsubstantiated claims and/or were otherwise misleading," the subpoena alleges.

"Specifically, but without limitation, some of the conclusions of the papers demonstrate a complete lack of rigor regarding the statistical analysis of the alleged data, meaning that the result reported lacked statistical significance without a specific statement to that effect," the document continues.

"University leaders are disappointed that the institution must continue to litigate with the Attorney General, but will continue to stand for the principles the University has articulated since the CIDs were first put forward in April - and to support academic communities here and elsewhere," said U-Va. spokeswoman Carol Wood in an e-mailed statement.

The new demand is written with an eye to satisfying Albemarle Circuit Court Judge Paul M. Peatross Jr., who in August ruled that Cuccinelli's previous subpoena did not properly explain his rationale for thinking that fraud might have been committed.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company