SEARCH BLOG: GLOBAL WARMING
In an attempt to mix political agendas and bad science, California sued automakers for damages suffered from automotive carbon dioxide emissions. Regardless of the fact that the state could not possible show it was damaged directly or indirectly from automotive CO2 emissions, it makes great political press.
The automakers responded:
The suit, filed by Attorney General Bill Lockyer in September, argues that General Motors Corp., Toyota Motor Corp., Ford Motor Co., Honda Motor Co., Nissan Motor Corp. and DaimlerChrysler A.G.'s Chrysler Group have violated public nuisance laws by contributing to global warming. The lawsuit seeks millions of dollars in damages.
It's the latest front in a multi-pronged legal battle to force the automakers and the federal government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In a 35-page motion to dismiss filed late Friday, the automakers responded to the latest fight in California.
The lawsuit "has no legitimate origins in federal or state law, no jurisprudential stopping point and the potential to wreak incalculable damage on the nation's carefully regulated transportation industry and the national economy. The lawsuit is frivolous, meritless and must be dismissed," the automakers wrote.
"California, in particular, fosters a culture and identity that affirmatively encourages the use of the very product that it now seeks to brand as a nuisance," the automakers said.
Theodore J. Boutros, a Los Angeles lawyer representing the automakers, said the global warming debate belongs in Congress, not in the courts.
"These products are lawful, they are expressly allowed by federal and state law and California encourages their use," Boutros said in an interview Friday.
The suit notes that California has more than 37,000 government owned vehicles, builds highways and actively encourages people to drive. There are 500,000 state, federal and locally owned vehicles in California.
California residents own 32.5 million vehicles -- or 13.5 percent of all U.S. vehicles, according to Transportation Department statistics released this week.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in its first global warming case, one that could have major implications for the U.S. auto industry.
The case pits Massachusetts, 11 other states, the District of Columbia and environmental groups against the Environmental Protection Agency in a dispute over whether the agency must regulate carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles, which have been linked to global warming, under the federal Clean Air Act.
The EPA says the act, passed in the 1970s to combat air pollution, does not govern carbon dioxide from vehicles.
Automakers, through their trade group, the Alliance for Automotive Manufacturers, filed a brief with the court siding with the EPA. Ted Olson, former solicitor general and an attorney representing the alliance, was in the courtroom Wednesday.
"The EPA has followed the advice of doctors: First do no harm," Olson said. He said the court should show deference to the EPA, which carefully studied the issue, rather than attempt to legislate a solution to global warming from the bench.
U.S. automobiles account for 6 percent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions; Massachusetts believes automakers could reduce emissions 40 percent, eventually resulting in a 2.5 percent cut in global emissions.
The automakers say mandated reductions could add $3,000 to the cost of every vehicle and prevent them from selling many larger, less-efficient vehicles.
In its argument, Massachusetts said it has a legal right to sue because it faces losing much of its coastline if global warming leads to rising ocean levels that put parts of the state underwater.
"While reducing U.S. emissions will not eliminate all the harm we face, it can reduce the harm that these emissions are causing," said assistant Massachusetts attorney general James Milkey.
The justices seemed split on the case, aligning along liberal and conservative lines.
Justice Stephen Breyer, a former trustee of the University of Massachusetts, was the most animated, comparing carbon dioxide emissions to a potentially more toxic output.
"Suppose there is a car coming down the street and it sprays Agent Orange," he said. "And I come to court and I say, 'You know, I think Agent Orange is going to kill me,' " conjuring an image of a "green cloud all over the city."
Breyer asked why "is it unreasonable to go to an agency and say 'now do your part' " -- through ethanol or other technological measures and "lo and behold Cape Cod is saved."
Chief Justice John Roberts said Massachusetts' arguments were "spitting out conjecture on conjecture" in suggesting a mandated reduction would lead to a chain reaction of improved technologies around the world and new reductions in emissions.
"It assumes there isn't going to be a greater contribution of greenhouse gases from economic development in China," he said.
Yes, but at least they fixed the blame... even if there isn't a problem to fix.