I received the following note from a reader of this blog:
“Last Wednesday the state of California, the world’s 12th largest emitter of greenhouse gases sued the country’s largest automobile manufacturers, seeking billions of dollars for environmental damage caused by automobile emissions.
It was the state’s latest effort to combat the effects of greenhouse gases. The lawsuit drew praise and criticism for Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer, who filed it on behalf of the state.
“The complaint, which an auto industry trade group called a “nuisance” suit, names 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.
Mr Lockyer says he is seeking “tens or hundreds of millions of dollars” from the auto makers in the lawsuit, which has been filed in US District Court in northern California.
Environmental groups have praised the actions to the lawsuit, saying it represents another weapon for the state as it seeks to curb greenhouse gas emissions and spur the auto industry to build vehicles that pollute less.”
“Legal experts had mixed views about the lawsuit’s viability. Sean Hecht, a UCLA environmental law expert, called the approach “not unreasonable” under precedents that go back to English common law.
“It’s novel, but based on standard nuisance law, they certainly have a shot at convincing a judge that the burdens this industry imposes on society are too great,” Hecht said.
But USC tort law expert Greg Keating wondered whether Lockyer was trying to advance an untenable argument that automakers collectively are creating a nuisance by selling cars that emit carbon dioxide. “I doubt it has legs,” he said.
Industry are most concerned and say the suit opens the door to lawsuits targeting any activity that uses fossil fuel for energy.”
CNN has run a philosophical piece “Is this the end of the road for the car?”
The lawsuit comes less than a month after California law makers adopted the nation’s first global warming law, mandating a cut in greenhouse gas emissions.
“The bill would require a 25% cut in emissions of greenhouse gases between now and 2020 and is likely to use mandatory emissions caps on power plants, refineries and other heavy industry as well as energy efficiency measures and an emissions trading program.
To reach 1990 levels of greenhouse gases, as the law mandates, experts say California will need to eliminate 174 million metric tons. About one-third would come as a result of an earlier car tailpipe emissions law in California that has been challenged by automakers in court.
Although the economic effects of a mandatory cut in emissions could be sweeping, California has a lot at stake in the battle against global warming, perhaps more than any other state, climate experts say.
Its water supplies, its top industry — agriculture — and its most popular recreational activities all depend on a healthy climate, as do forests, deserts, ocean ecosystems and the species that inhabit them.
Amid concern about worldwide climate change, the Californian Assembly approved the bill by a 46-31 vote. It passed 23 to 14 in the Senate.
California is the world’s 12th-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, responsible for 10% of the carbon dioxide produced nationally and 2.5% globally”. http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-warm1sep01,1,3291716.story
Some commentators have said the whole business will be ruinous for the Californian economy and drive investment out of the state. However others have foreshadowed a big opportunity for trading in emission credits and that the whole initiative will position California ahead of the game. The legislation has escape provisions for “emergency” circumstances. The Economist reports an increasing number of businesses getting “into” climate change.
The emissions cap bill now goes to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said that he would sign it. He is running for re-election in November and trailing in the polls. Arnie hypocritically has a collection of eight Hummers but hey – he’s a big guy. Anyway this makes one wonder how much greenhouse reality we all really want.
So are California legislators mad, bad or visionary?“
I wonder how a government that has built roads and freeways for cars to travel on, can now sue car manufacturers for environmental damage from emissions?