ATI Law Center Asks Court to Dislodge University of Virginia ‘ClimateGate’ and Other Documents That Pertain to Climate Scientist Michael Mann
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Today the American Tradition Institute’s Environmental Law Center and Virginia Delegate Robert Marshall asked a Prince William County judge, under the Commonwealth’s Freedom of Information Act, to expedite the release of documents withheld by the University of Virginia that pertain to the work of its former environmental sciences assistant professor Dr. Michael Mann.
The legal action follows a delay by UVA of more than four months since ATI and Del. Marshall made their original request on Jan. 6. Since then UVA officials have demanded an unjustified and unsupportable sum of $8,500 from ATI to produce the documents, despite its admission that it knows precisely where the records exist on a specific University computer server. Still, ATI made a down payment of $2,000 for UVA to begin its search and delivery of Mann’s records – and also a second payment, for a total paid of $4,000.00 – but University officials still have not provided any documents, nor offered a schedule of its intentions to respond to ATI’s information request.
“More than one month ago, on April 6, 2011, the University informed us in writing that it expected to begin producing responsive records ‘shortly,’” said Christopher Horner, the senior director of litigation for ATI’s Environmental Law Center. “Then came a pressure campaign in which groups including People for the American Way and ACLU sought political intervention in the process. On May 2, 2011, UVA promised they would send some documents three days later. As of May 13, 2011, ATI had not received a single document under their request.”
The emails and other documents ATI seeks relate to claims made by Dr. Mann to obtain, and claim payment under, certain taxpayer-funded grants. Mann, currently at Pennsylvania State University, worked at the UVA’s Department of Environmental Sciences when he produced what was hailed at the time as the ‘smoking gun’ affirming the theory of catastrophic man-made global warming, and the policy agenda demanded by its proponents. After a persistent cloud of controversy – much of which was affirmed by the “ClimateGate” leak of 2009 – this notorious ‘Hockey Stick’ graph disappeared from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Reports, the perch that launched it.
UVA, with approximately $500,000 in support from private donors, has resisted an earlier records request under a Civil Investigative Demand by Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli, which he initiated pursuant to the Commonwealth’s Fraud Against Taxpayers Act (FATA). That case is now before the state Supreme Court. Press reports indicate the University decided not to cooperate after a similar pressure campaign was launched, also seeking to bar the taxpayer (or law enforcement) from seeing records the taxpayer underwrote.
ATI has requested the same records under Virginia’s FOIA law. UVA has informed ATI it might withhold many of the records sought by ATI under a “proprietary research” exclusion in the law. However, that exemption only applies to research that “has not been publicly released, published, copyrighted or patented” and is otherwise of actual value to UVA. Clearly that exception does not apply to Dr. Mann’s emails a la ClimateGate, sought in ATI’s request, or to his research records given the work in question has been in the public domain for over a decade, was published in academic journals Nature and Geophysical Research Letters, by the IPCC, and elsewhere. Meanwhile the source records for his research have been buried on a back-up computer for many years, inaccessible to anyone.
“The University has been uneven in its response to information requests,” said Dr. David Schnare, director of ATI’s Environmental Law Center. “In this case, they wish to hide behind their ivy covered walls. Our petition to the court will be the first step in looking behind the façade. There will likely be more to come.”
See ATI Environmental Law Center’s Petition for Relief in court in its Freedom of Information Act case against the University of Virginia (PDF).
See previous releases by ATI Environmental Law Center about its FOIA activities with University of Virginia and Dr. Michael Mann (PDF).
For an interview with American Tradition Institute senior director of litigation Christopher Horner, email email@example.com or call (202)670-2680.