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Carmakers to Calif. Attorney General: Drop Suit

Date: 12-Feb-07
Country: US
Author: Leonard Anderson

But the automakers so far have given no indication that they will drop the industry's suit against California's tailpipe emissions rules.

Brown, on Feb. 1, sent a letter to the heads of the major automakers to resolve the suit started in September by former Attorney General Bill Lockyer. He said he wanted to meet with the chief executives "to discuss resolution of our pending litigation and moving forward cooperatively."

The suit, which the auto industry has called a "nuisance" action, charged that greenhouse gases from the automakers' vehicles were causing climate change costing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to California.

The suit targets General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp., the US arm of Germany's DaimlerChrysler AG and the North American units of Japan's Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd..

Theodore Boutrous, the lawyer for the automakers, replied in a Feb. 6 letter to Brown released on Friday that lawyers from the car companies could brief the attorney general on "multifaceted efforts" to improve fuel efficiency and design new vehicles that run on alternative fuels.

Brown told Reuters on Friday he was willing to meet with industry lawyers. "But I also intend to meet with their CEOS and I will keep pressing that issue," he added.

"We will talk about the California 'nuisance' lawsuit and the auto lawsuit attempting to invalidate our emission controls. Auto companies are suing in many courts and my position is we have to get beyond the lawyers and get to the leaders who will make the tough decisions to finally deal seriously with global warming," Brown said.

A hearing on California's suit is set for March 6 in US District Court for the Northern District of California.

Boutrous said the automakers appreciated the spirit of Brown's suggestion for discussion on global warming.

Boutrous's letter said: "The reality is that these issues cannot rationally be addressed through a tort lawsuit seeking damages against businesses for making essential, lawful and comprehensively regulated products that play such a crucial role in California's economy and culture.

"We know that you inherited this lawsuit from your predecessor and remain hopeful that you will decide to dismiss it and instead focus on engaging in public debate and dialogue that will contribute to the best possible approach for dealing with global warming issues," Boutrous said.

Boutrous, however, did not mention the automakers' suit challenging California's first-in-the-nation rules adopted in 2004 requiring automakers to reduce emissions from cars and light trucks.

The industry is challenging the rules in US District Court in Fresno, California.

Boutrous, asked why the carmakers did not respond on the vehicle emissions suit, said "we don't view the other suit as having any connection to the Lockyer suit."

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Reuters
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