UVA Climate Denier Bows Out of Vermont Court Case (9/19/07)

Photo of Pat Michaels (email) from UVA’s website.

According to the Oakland-based Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security, Virginia State Climatologist/UVA professor/climate change denier funded by industry Pat Michaels once threatened the Institutes president Peter Gleick with legal action for telling Seth Slabaugh of the The Star Press in Muncie, IN for his 11/18/03 story,

I consider that Michaels is to the science of climate change like the Flat Earth Society is to the science of planetary shape

In Green Mountain Chrysler v. Crombie, a high-profile federal district court case in Burlington, Vermont, the auto industry lost its suit against the State and environmental groups in an attempt to thwart regulation of greenhouse gases emitted by automobiles. This follows on the Supreme court’s decision that the EPA should be regulating green house gases.

Meanwhile as Mondaq reported 9/14/07,

California and the U.S. EPA are engaged in a tussle over the EPA’s several year delay in deciding whether to grant the Section 209(b) waiver. The EPA may deny the Section 209(b) waiver if it makes any of the following findings: (1) that California’s adoption of the standards was arbitrary and capricious; (2) that California does not need the standards to meet compelling and extraordinary conditions; or (3) that the standards are inconsistent with federal emission standards. Governor Schwarzenegger has threatened further litigation if the U.S. EPA does not act soon.

The interesting wrinkle is that Michaels withdrew from the case rather than disclose his backers. Michaels’s wholly owned firm, New Hope Environmental Services, Inc. describes itself on its website as “an advocacy science consulting firm that produces cutting edge research & informed commentary on the nature of climate” and the publisher of World Climate Report. In a response to a request for disclosure of his funders by Greenpeace, Michaels and and his lawyers argued to the court in July 2007 :

Many of New Hope’s clients provide funding to New Hope with the understanding that the funding will be confidential….Public exposure of the funding will therefore result in the loss of some or all of New Hope’s clients, leading either to destruction of the business or a significant curtailment of its operations. Since Dr. Michaels and other research scientists obtain a significant portion of their income from New Hope, the damage to New Hope will seriously diminish their livelihoods.

Michaels’ World Climate Report (no, I’m not linking there–he doesn’t need my help with Google and Technorati) has been heavily funded by coal and electric utility industries, especially the Western Fuels Association, as disclosed by journalist Bud Ward in the Environment Writer newsletter.

Greenpeace sought two documents filed under seal on March 23 and designated by the plaintiffs as “highly confidential information” (HCI). The documents were described as certain pages from a transcript of Michaels’s deposition and an exhibit attached to the deposition.

Greenpeace investigates the cooperative and financial relationships between certain corporations and think tanks, and scientists and individuals known as climate change skeptics. It publishes the results of its investigation on its website, http://www.ExxonSecrets.org. Greenpeace maintained that the public had a right to review the contents of the two exhibits.

Judge Sessions turned down the motion, ruling July 31 as reported in the August 2007 Mealy’s Polution Liability Report (page 6) that

Greenpeace argues that…disclosure of this information “will be of continuing importance to the organization,” presumably because it will enhance the information provided on its website, and thus promote its ability to “promote transparency and disseminate information to the public and media.” …Although the state of Vermont certainly shares with Greenpeace its concern about global warming, and for accurate dissemination of information on climate change, at best these issues are at stake in this case only indirectly.

The Burlington Free Press was allowed to intervene specifically on the subject of public access to documents designated HCI, but had not sought disclosure of the documents requested by Greenpeace .

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Book group tonight. Next month we meet October 24th at Sig’s. The book is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. There’s an interesting interview with Haddon at the Powell’s bookstore site.

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