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California Attorney General Sues Big Six Automakers for Global Warming Damages

20 September 2006

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer has filed a lawsuit against leading US and Japanese auto manufacturers, alleging their vehicles’ emissions have contributed significantly to global warming, harmed the resources, infrastructure and environmental health of California, and cost the state millions of dollars to address current and future effects.

Filed in US District Court for the Northern District of California, the complaint names as defendants: Chrysler Motors Corporation, General Motors Corporation, Ford Motor Company, Toyota Motor North America, Inc., Honda North America, and Nissan North America.

The lawsuit is the first of its kind to seek to hold manufacturers liable for the damages caused by greenhouse gases that their products emit. Lockyer filed the lawsuit on behalf of the People of the State of California.

Currently, automakers are challenging in Federal court California’s law regulating the emissions of greenhouse emissions. (Earlier post.) In their federal-court lawsuit, the automakers claim the regulations, adopted in 2005 through legislation sponsored by Assembly Member Fran Pavley, are pre-empted by federal law.

Global warming is causing significant harm to California’s environment, economy, agriculture and public health. The impacts are already costing millions of dollars and the price tag is increasing. Vehicle emissions are the single most rapidly growing source of the carbon emissions contributing to global warming, yet the federal government and automakers have refused to act. It is time to hold these companies responsible for their contribution to this crisis.

—Attorney General Lockyer

The complaint alleges that under federal and state common law the automakers have created a public nuisance by producing “millions of vehicles that collectively emit massive quantities of carbon dioxide,” a greenhouse gas that traps atmospheric heat and causes global warming. Under the law, a public nuisance is an unreasonable interference with a public right, or an action that interferes with or causes harm to life, health or property. The complaint asks the court to hold the defendants liable for damages, including future harm, caused by their ongoing, substantial contribution to the public nuisance of global warming.

As stated in the complaint, the automakers produce vehicles that emit a combined 289 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in the United States each year. Those emissions, the complaint alleges, currently account for nearly 20% of the carbon dioxide emissions in the United States and more than 30% in California. The defendants rank “among the world’s largest contributors to global warming and the adverse impacts on California,” according to the complaint. California is the world’s 12th largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

The US Supreme Court is currently reviewing a lawsuit filed by Lockyer, 11 other Attorneys General, two cities and major environmental groups challenging the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) refusal to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Numerous parties have submitted amicus briefs supporting the states, including climate scientists, three former EPA Administrators, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and environmental and religious groups.

In addition, Lockyer, along with nine other state Attorneys General, the District of Columbia and the City of New York, filed a lawsuit earlier this year challenging the Bush Administration’s new fuel economy standards for SUVs and light trucks. That complaint alleges the rules fail to address the effects on the environment and global warming.

According to a report recently submitted by the Climate Action Team to Governor Schwarzenegger and the California Legislature, the consequences of climate change in California will be severe.

We are seeing the harmful impacts of global warming today, and if we continue with business as usual, we can expect to see more and larger impacts in the future. As a coastal state, an agricultural state, and a state that relies on its Sierra snow pack, California has an enormous stake in acting now to combat global warming.

—Attorney General Lockyer

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September 20, 2006 in Climate Change, Policy | Permalink | Comments (53) | TrackBack (0)

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Comments

Stupid suit, mfr's should close all California plants and refuse to sell or service in the state of California. Idiots in that state should not be driving.

Well its about time things started to get serious around here. We can't wait, or take our chances on the next president.

"Idiots in that State should not be driving". Yeah, right. Why not apply the same logic to the rest of the states? The cars are doing the same things there as well. Something has to occur to move things along faster than they are going. If it has to come down to litigation blame Bush for not instigating something more intelligent and flexible years ago.

Marcus:

You can also blame the 1997 Byrd-Hagel Resolution, passed 95-0 in the Senate:

Resolved, That it is the sense of the Senate that--

(1) the United States should not be a signatory to any protocol to, or other agreement regarding, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change of 1992, at negotiations in Kyoto in December 1997, or thereafter, which would--

(A) mandate new commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the Annex I Parties, unless the protocol or other agreement also mandates new specific scheduled commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions for Developing Country Parties within the same compliance period, or

(B) would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States; and

(2) any such protocol or other agreement which would require the advice and consent of the Senate to ratification should be accompanied by a detailed explanation of any legislation or regulatory actions that may be required to implement the protocol or other agreement and should also be accompanied by an analysis of the detailed financial costs and other impacts on the economy of the United States which would be incurred by the implementation of the protocol or other agreement.

Yes blame Bush for not raising CAFE standards unlike Clilnton...oh wait, he didn't do a damn thing either.

When is the fine gentleman going to file a lawsuit against the operators of those vehicles? If I run over someone they come after me not GM right? I would like to see the state attorney general file a suit againt the people of California.

This is one of the most immature lawsuits I have seen. And that is saying something in this country.

I would rather blame Cheney/Halliburton, it is so much easier.

JRod.

You guys are idiots if you think this suit will go anywhere or accomplish anything.

Bill Lockyer is well known for his empty headed political posturing. He would sue his mom if he thought it would make some sort of hip PC statement.

This is awesome, they should sue all the technology companies too for all the electricity their datacenters use. That will help drive the continued business exodus from California to all the other states which is good news for the other members of the lower 48.

I knew Americans were litigeous ... this one's nothing short of astouding. Isn't there some kind of annual award for the most rediculous lawsuit?

I don't expect any settlement in this litigous matter, but it certainly might get a few more heads in Washington to come up from the sand where they have been buried.

What do you expect from the land of fruits and nuts? I just wish they would stay in California. They are coming to Arizona and bringing their nonsense with them.

I hope they drive all the businesses out of California. Honestly, we're tired of dealing with them all. I hope they sue all businesses for 80 trillion dollars and split it all among us Californians. We could use the money, and it would teach some heads in the Washington sands a lesson!

The automakers sued the California state, so the California state is suing back.

You can also blame the 1997...

Blame something that's a decade old?

Yes blame Bush for not raising CAFE standards unlike Clilnton...oh wait, he didn't do a damn thing either.

Clinton tried to raise the gas tax 50 cents and got skewered on the issue - by the Republicans and a lot of the oil state Democrats.

You too young to recall that?

Dosent it get down to CO2 vs. NOx, both of which can be handled with smaller displacement engines?
While the AGs at it why not sue EPA, CARB and DOT as they are equally to blame for the incomprehensible regs.
Finally, is there anything stupider sounding than grams/mile? This country needs to go metric once and for all.

If you run over someone because your equipment was faulty they would only come after you if you were rich...otherwise they go where the money is and that would be the manufacturer. The challenge is to show where the equipment was faulty (an example would be the Tobacco related lawsuits. No one sued smokers for second hand smoke, they want after philip morris and rj reynolds).

Are YOU too young to remember the Democrats controlled both houses of congress for Clinton's first two years of presidency? They had free reign to do whatever they wanted to, no excuses and they blew it.

Just also wanted to say that I knew the standard cast of hyenas would pounce on this red meat with every predictable whine about "blame Bush - it's so easy", "damn lawyers", "fruits and nuts", and so on.

In case you haven't noticed, this blog is published from the land of fruits and nuts.

What I find interesting is that the states are forced to turn to these measures, since the federal government isn't doing anything to deal with the problem. There are tangible economic costs borne by states - especially coastal ones - and whether you consider this the proper means of redressing the problem, the logic is certainly clear. If someone knowingly engages in something which causes harm to another party, then there's grounds in this country for getting compensation for that.

Unfortunately the article contains too many inflammatory factors, and thus the sad and predictable responses which add nothing.

Are YOU too young to remember the Democrats controlled both houses of congress for Clinton's first two years of presidency?

Nope. Perhaps you missed the part where I mentioned he got shut down by a faction of his own party. Try paying attention to what people write and maybe you won't say such silly things.

They had free reign to do whatever they wanted to, no excuses and they blew it.

"Free reign"? The original assertion was with respect to Clinton, not his party, so he had little in the way of "free reign" to do anything that the Congress didn't first pass. As for the Congress, unless a party has clear consensus on a certain issue and has enough votes to stop a filibuster (which the 103rd Democrats did not), the notion of "free reign" is ridiculous. They also could, and did, pay a price at the voting booth, especially with respect to the passing of deficit reduction legislation.

Auto and oil state Democrats traditionally (and predictably) tend to side with the economic interests of their home states rather than with any environmental agenda which is part of the national agenda for the party. This is why it's so difficult to get progress on plenty of things like fuel efficiency standards or gas taxes -- there's not much incentive on either side of the aisle to pursue something like that.

Looking back at the 103rd Congress, the only bill I found proposed was by a (no surprise) Michigan Democrat to rescind CAFE altogether.

I'm sorry guys but in an environment where Bush's EPA doesn't consider CO2 a pollutant and where the automakers are suing California for imposing CO2 emissions standards I'm not surprized at all that there is a counter offensive and good luck to them whether its just hot air or not. Cervus, no where does it say that the senate agreed never to enable a well thought out policy on reducing CO2 emissions. Studies of the California reductions policy predict economic gains. Perhaps if the other states were as economically important as California then these companies might leave. Unfortunately for those of of you wishing a California exodus, that's just not the case and therein lies the power of California setting the standards for the rest of the country.

This is a classic scam by dirty politicians. Claim that a product is costing the government tax revenue due to increased health costs and sue them. Big Tobacco is a prime example. The states could raise the tax on cigarettes and recover the costs directly. But if they do that the trial lawyers union will not give the politicians hefty campaign contributions. The lawyers get their cut and the politicians get their cut. Everyone is happy, except for the taxpayer. If they really want to cut C02 emissions, raise the gas tax. Somehow that is not as popular as suing car companies.

Recall all the cars sold in CA in the last 10 years, convert them to CNG or crush them, customers choice, never mind that there would be no place to fill them up. those choosing the crush get a golf cart with lead acid batteries. Lockyer the opportunist is a moron, at least he could have filed this when the Big 3 were solvent. If he wins, Chapter 11 will cure the problem. CA should sue CARB (themselves.) They have their own emission standards. What? They forgot to spec CO2! MOVE for dismissal, ASK for SANCTIONS, Frivolous.....

Cervus, no where does it say that the senate agreed never to enable a well thought out policy on reducing CO2 emissions.

No, it says that the Senate will not approve emissions restrictions that 1) do not include Developing Countries, and 2) Where they would economically damage us. Hence why the Kyoto Protocol would not have been ratified even when Clinton was in office and the Democrats had control of the Senate. As the 95-0 vote shows.

Unfortunately for those of of you wishing a California exodus, that's just not the case and therein lies the power of California setting the standards for the rest of the country.

Nissan relocated to Tennessee. Boeing is closing its Long Beach assembly plant. As for California setting the standards for the rest of the country, only the Federal government has the power to regulate interstate commerce. The United States is not ruled from California. As large as our economy is, we are still a minority in a nation of 300 million.

The fact that Toyota and Honda, who make very fuel-efficient hybrids and have the most efficient fleets on the market, tells me that even if the average car got twice the mileage they do at present, Lockyer would still be suing.

"CA should sue CARB (themselves.) They have their own emission standards. What? They forgot to spec CO2! MOVE for dismissal, ASK for SANCTIONS, Frivolous....."

John, California is getting sued right now by the automakers exactly for trying to control CO2 emissions as you propose.

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