Univ. of Virginia Bows to Denier Group on Climate Science FOIA

June 1, 2011

Groups opposing the science on climate change have been attacking climate scientists on many fronts in recent years — raising questions about their integrity which have invariably been ruled groundless by investigating panels. One major target has been former University of Virginia researcher Michael Mann. Requests for his emails and records from his U.Va. days have squarely pitted the principle of open information against the principle of academic freedom.

Virginia Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has so far been unable to obtain Mann’s documents through his civil subpoena power. But now a climate-denial group has won them under Virginia’s freedom of information law.

In an agreement filed May 22, 2011, before a Virginia circuit court, U.Va. agreed to release a set of Mann-related documents, similar to those Cuccinelli sought, by an August 22 deadline. The plaintiff in this case was not Cuccinelli, but the American Tradition Institute, which raises funds with the slogan "Crush Gang Green and their anti-business allies."

U.Va. has already given ATI some of the documents it seeks. The university's president has promised to use "all available exemptions" to Virginia's Freedom of Information Act, but the agreement requires the university to submit records it considers exempt to the judge under seal.