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Climate research legal fight heats up

Peatross also ruled that Cuccinelli had no right to documents about grants conducted using federal instead of state dollars. But he had indicated that Cuccinelli could rewrite the demand and issue it again.

Late last week, Cuccinelli also filed a notice with the court that he plans to appeal the judge's ruling.

"While the CID was drafted to comply with the judge's ruling, we do not believe that the ruling was correct in all of its particulars," Cuccinelli said in an e-mailed statement Monday. "Accordingly, we have noted that we will appeal the ruling while continuing our ongoing investigation."

The CID gives the university until Oct. 29 to comply, but the Board of Visitors appears to have already decided to resist.

Faculty at the school and academics across the country have said that acceding to Cuccinelli's inquiry would have a chilling effect on academic freedom.

"It's our fervent hope that the university continues to push back and doesn't allow this to become a ridiculous precedent," said Francesca Grifo, director of the scientific integrity program of the Union of Concerned Scientists. "The attorney general's sunk his teeth into this and it's clearly something that he's going to stick with until the bitter end. Let's just hope the bitter end comes quickly so scientists can get back to their important work."

Mann said the one grant that remains the subject of Cuccinelli's inquiry funded research that did not involve global warming and did not reference the two papers Cuccinelli attacked. Instead, the research project studied land-vegetation-atmospheric interaction in the African savannah.

"I find it extremely disturbing that Mr. Cuccinelli has sought to continue to abuse his power as the attorney general of Virginia in this way, in the process smearing the University of Virginia and me and other climate scientists," Mann said. "The people of Virginia need to be extremely disturbed that he is using their tax dollars to pursue this partisan witch hunt."

Cuccinelli has sought the documents under the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act, a 2002 statute designed to catch state employees who file false claims to collect taxpayer dollars.

In her e-mailed statement, Wood said the university has incurred more than $350,000 in legal fees fighting the attorney general's efforts, all of it paid from private funds.

Some of Mann's methodologies have been criticized by other scientists, but an inquiry by Pennsylvania State University concluded that there was no evidence that Mann engaged in efforts to falsify or suppress data and his research conclusions have been affirmed by others in the field.

In an attachment to the civil investigative demand, lawyers with Cuccinelli's office say that a small group of scientists including Mann have manipulated scientific conclusions to produce results that would support massive regulation of carbon dioxide.

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