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Cuccinelli reissues global warming subpoena to U-Va.

Rosalind Helderman

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has sent a new civil subpoena to the University of Virginia, renewing a demand for documents related to a work of a former university climate scientist that was stymied when a judge blocked his previous request in August.

The new Civil Investigative Demand revives a contentious fight between Cuccinelli and the university over documents related to the work of Michael Mann, a prominent climate scientist whose research concluded that the earth has experienced a rapid, recent warming. Mann worked at U-Va. until 2005; he is now employed by Penn State University.

In the demand sent to the university last week, Cuccinelli once again asked that the school turn over all e-mails exchanged between former university professor Michael Mann and 39 other scientists as well as between Mann and his secretaries and research associates.

An Albemarle County judge had quashed a previous demand from Cuccinelli at the request of the university, ruling that Cuccinelli had not properly explained his rationale for believing fraud may have been committed. He also ruled that Cuccinelli had no right to documents about grants conducted using federal instead of state dollars.

In response, Cuccinelli has limited his demand to the e-mails and documents related to one state grant Mann received. The attorney general dropped requests for paperwork related to four other federal grants. But he expanded a section explaining why he sought the records, laying out in writing that he seeks the documents because Mann wrote two papers on global warming that "have come under significant criticism" and that Mann "knew or should have known contained false information, unsubstantiated claims and/or were otherwise misleading."

"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 CID alleges.

And late last week, he filed a notice with the court that he plans to appeal the judge's ruling, a clerk with the circuit court confirmed.

The CID gives the university until Oct. 29 to comply, leaving the school's Board of Visitors with a few weeks to decide whether to cooperate or to once again resist. Faculty at the school and academics across the country will likely push for a return to court, arguing that acceding to Cuccinelli's inquiry would have a chilling affect on academic freedom and unpopular research.

Mann said with Cuccinelli's narrowing of his request, he has now limited the request to documents related to a grant that funded research unrelated to climate change.

"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."

Mann has long been targeted by those who, like Cuccinelli, do not believe that the science behind global warming is sound. Some of his 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.

We've reached out to the university for a response and we also expect comment from the attorney general's office soon.

By Rosalind Helderman  | October 4, 2010; 1:31 PM ET
Categories:  Ken Cuccinelli, Rosalind Helderman  
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