Senator and Delegate Square Off Against Attorney General Over Climate Change Research
Two Virginia representatives are raising bills to prevent Ken Cuccinelli from continuing his investigation into a research project
Sen. Don McEachin (D-Richmond) and Del. David Toscano (D-Charlottesville) are patrons of a bill which would repeal sections of the Virginia code of law pertaining to the rights of the attorney general.
The sections grant the commonwealth’s attorney general—currently Ken Cuccinelli (R)—the right to issue civil investigative demands. These demands are frequently compared to subpoenas and require civil offices to provide specific information related to an investigation the attorney general’s office is conducting.
Cuccinelli’s office has sent out these civil investigative demands to the University of Virginia (UVA) to support his fraud case against former professor Michael Mann. Mann, during his tenure at UVA, used grants provided from taxpayer funds to research climate change and provided ways to determine shifts in global temperatures over time.
In the past, Cuccinelli has spoken out against the existence of climate change and says Mann's study falsely gave justification to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s increased regulation to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
According to Cuccinelli, Mann committed fraud while using state grants for his research because of questionable findings, data, and statistical analysis. He issued investigative demands to UVA about the study in order to find proof.
UVA appealed to the Albemarle County District Court, which threw out Cuccinelli's request. The attorney general countered by re-filing the demands, leading UVA to immediately appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court.
In a press conference earlier this month, Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) spoke in support of Toscano and McEachin's bill.
“I was very disturbed that we would have a situation which, what I would regard as a matter of academic inquiry—whether or not climate change exists, whether or not global warming exists —would be politicized to the extent that our attorney general would be issuing what are in effect subpoenas to individual professors and individual departments to try and collect their research notes, their emails, and other things that have to do with their research as academics," Petersen said.
"To allow the attorney general to have something we [civil lawyers] don't have, which is the subpeona power, I think is wrong," McEachin said at the same press conference. "My bill repeals that power."
Allowing Cuccinelli to continue on his path would inhibit other researchers in the future, McEachin said.
McEachin's bill was presented to the Senate Courts of Justice’s Civil Subcommittee on Monday. The subcommittee consists of five Democrats and two Republicans. Two of the Democrats have indicated support for the bill already, making its presentation before the General Assembly likely.
Cuccinelli’s office has not released a statement regarding the bill.