Calif. Suit on Car Greenhouse Gases Dismissed
Author: Adam Tanner
Martin Jenkins, a federal judge in the Northern District of
California, said the issue of global warming should be decided
in the political rather than legal arena.
"The Court finds that injecting itself into the global
warming thicket at this juncture would require an initial
policy determination of the type reserved for the political
branches of government," Jenkins wrote in approving the
automakers' motion to dismiss the case.
The suit, filed in September, targeted 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.
"The Court is left to make an initial decision as to what
is unreasonable in the context of carbon dioxide emissions,"
Jenkins wrote. "Such an exercise would require the Court to
create a quotient or standard in order to quantify any
potential damages that flow from Defendants' alleged act of
contributing 30 percent of California's carbon dioxide
"The balancing of those competing interests is the type of
initial policy determination to be made by the political
branches, and not this Court."
The suit was the first seeking to hold manufacturers liable
for global warming damages caused by greenhouse emissions. It
said cars made by the six automakers account for more than 30
percent of human-generated carbon dioxide emissions in
California, the most populous US state.
"We understand why a district federal judge may not want to
jump into a global warming thicket with both feet," Ken Alex,
California's supervising deputy attorney general, said in an
interview. "Having said that, the basic tenet of law is that
where you describe a harm then there needs to be a remedy for
"Right now because the political branches -- the federal
government, Congress and the executive branch -- have not
acted, the state of California is left without a remedy."
Alex said his office would consider whether to appeal the
case to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, saying judges
frequently decided reasonable standards in cases such as
dumping of pollution into rivers.
According to the suit, California spends millions of
dollars to deal with a reduced snow pack, beach erosion, ozone
pollution and the impact on endangered animals and fish.
California has also targeted the auto industry with
first-in-the-nation rules adopted in 2004 requiring automakers
to reduce emissions from cars and light trucks.