Automakers ask judge
to dismiss global warming lawsuit
By Julia Cheever, Bay City News Service
March 6, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - Six leading American and Japanese
automakers asked a federal judge in San Francisco today to dismiss
a public nuisance lawsuit filed against them by the state of California
over global warming.
The car manufacturers' lawyer, Theodore Boutrous, argued to U.S.
District Judge Martin Jenkins that the case doesn't belong in
court because global warming is a policy issue.
"Global warming is fraught with economic, political and
social issues of global significance," Boutrous said.
"This is a classic case where this is a political issue,"
The attorney also said the lawsuit interferes with U.S. foreign
policy on global warming. Jenkins took the case under submission
and will issue a written ruling at a later date.
The unusual lawsuit is based on the legal theory that carbon
dioxide, a so-called "greenhouse gas," emitted by automobiles
is a public nuisance because it contributes to global warming.
It alleges the six automakers are responsible for 30 percent
of the carbon dioxide emitted in California. It seeks compensation
for the alleged millions of dollars that global warming costs
the state because of increased flooding, coastline erosion and
harm to public health during more frequent extreme hot weather.
The lawsuit was filed in September by then-Attorney General Bill
Lockyer and has been continued by his successor, Jerry Brown.
The defendants are General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., Chrysler
Motors Corp., Toyota Motor North America Inc., Honda North America
and Nissan North America.
The automakers also contend the nuisance claim shouldn't be allowed
because it is pre empted by federal laws regulating vehicle pollution,
including the Clean Air Act.
But Deputy California Attorney General Ken Alex told the judge
the Clean Air act generally does not regulate carbon dioxide and
thus should not displace the nuisance lawsuit.
"We have a massive issue about which this statute is pretty
much silent. It's not a comprehensive response to global warming,"
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