Calif. Sues Six Automakers Over Greenhouse Gases
By Michael Kahn, Reuters
SAN FRANCISCO (Sept. 20) - California sued six of the world's largest
automakers over global warming on Wednesday, charging that greenhouse
gases from their vehicles have caused billions of dollars in damages.
The lawsuit is the first of its kind to seek to hold manufacturers
liable for the damages caused by their vehicles' emissions, state
Attorney General Bill Lockyer said.
It also comes less than a month after California lawmakers adopted the
nation's first global warming law mandating a cut in greenhouse gas
An automaker trade group called the global warming move a "nuisance
suit." Car manufacturers have also held up California state rules to
force cuts in tailpipe emissions from cars and trucks with legal action
of their own.
The lawsuit names General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor
Corp., the Chrysler Motors Corp. U.S. arm of Germany's DaimlerChrysler
AG and the North American units of Japan's Honda Motor Co. and Nissan
Motor Co. Ltd.
"(California) just passed a new law to cut global warming emissions by
25 percent and that's a good start and this lawsuit is a good next
step," said Dan Becker, director of the Sierra Club's Global Warming
Lockyer told Reuters he would seek "tens or hundreds of millions of
dollars" from the automakers in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District
Court in Northern California.
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages for past and ongoing contributions
to global warming and asks that the companies be held liable for future
monetary damages to California.
It noted that California is spending millions to deal with reduced snow
pack, beach erosion, ozone pollution and the impact on endangered
animals and fish.
"The injuries have caused the people to suffer billions of dollars in
damages, including millions of dollars of funds expended to determine
the extent, location and nature of future harm and to prepare for and
mitigate those harms, and billions of dollars of current harm to the
value of flood control infrastructure and natural resources," it said.
Ford deferred comment to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers,
which called the complaint a "nuisance suit" similar to one a New York
"Automakers will need time to review this legal complaint, however, a
similar nuisance suit that was brought by attorneys- general against
utilities was dismissed by a federal court in New York," the industry
group said in a statement.
Toyota declined to comment as the company evaluates the lawsuit. The
other automakers had no immediate comment.
David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research, a nonprofit
organization that provides public research and forecasts into the
industry, said it would be tough for the industry to immediately meet
demands from some critics.
Adoption of diesel engine emissions technology or gasoline- electric
hybrids comes at great cost and improving gas mileage also likely means
smaller lighter vehicles, trade-offs that are not attractive to
consumers, he added.
"These are not free technologies, they are very expensive," Cole said.
"Most people are price sensitive."
In the complaint, Lockyer charges that vehicle emissions have
contributed significantly to global warming and have harmed the
resources, infrastructure and environmental health of the most populous
state in the United States.
Lockyer -- a Democratic candidate for state treasurer in the November
election -- said the lawsuit states 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 emissions and other greenhouse gases have been linked to
09/20/06 13:17 ET
It's a civil action - you don't need "definitive proof" (even criminal cases
don't need "definitive proof" but need to be demonstrated "beyond a
reasonable doubt"), you need "a balance of probabilities". Practically, "a
balance of probabilities" means whoever provides the most convincing
argument wins: see OJ Simpson.
In any case, the evidence is far better than a "hunch" and stands a
reasonable chance of winning in California.