Va. AG's probe into climate change research stayed

Jessica M. Karmasek Sep. 12, 2011, 1:23pm


CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (Legal Newsline) - A Virginia circuit court judge has granted a stay by the University of Virginia in an ongoing probe of one of its former professor's climate research.

According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Albemarle County Circuit Judge Cheryl Higgins put the case on hold at a scheduled hearing Friday.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, citing Virginia's Fraud Against Taxpayers Act, is investigating whether former professor Michael Mann used fraudulent data to obtain government grants.

Judge Paul M. Peatross Jr. of Albemarle County Circuit Court had set aside the attorney general's original civil investigative demand issued in August 2010.

However, Cuccinelli submitted a narrower demand, seeking information on one $214,700 grant issued by the university to Mann and two other researchers.

The university had asked a court to set aside the latest demand, which targeted "the same professor on the same grounds that the court already found insufficient," it argued.

Higgins would not rule Friday on Cuccinelli's scaled-down demand.

Instead, she said she has to wait for the Virginia Supreme Court, which has already agreed to review, to hear the case. A date has not been set to hear arguments, the newspaper reported.

Mann, an assistant professor of environmental sciences at the university from 1999 to 2005, is known for his research on global warming. He now teaches at Pennsylvania State University.

It was Mann who produced the widely publicized "hockey stick" graph showing a sharp increase in global average temperatures in the industrial age.

His work was called into question in the investigations into the so-called Climategate scandal following the unauthorized release of hundreds of emails from a British climate center.

However, several investigations, including an extensive review of his research by Penn State, have cleared him of academic misconduct.

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