Automakers reply to California lawsuit

Remember that lawsuit filed by California State Attorney General Bill Lockyer back in September? The one accusing the automakers of harming the environment and people's health by building cars that pollute too much? The one that some people considered nothing more than a publicity stunt? Well, the accused automakers do. And they have an answer for Lockyer. On Friday, lawyers for those six automakers asked a federal judge to dismiss the suit.

They filed a 35-page motion to dismiss, and their attorney added the issue should be handled through regulation not litigation. Theodore J. Boutrous, the lawyer for the group of automakers that includes Chrysler Motors Corp., General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor North America Inc., American Honda Motor Co. and Nissan North America Inc., said the lawsuit has no merit, and during an interview he added, "These products are lawful, they are expressly allowed by federal and state law and California encourages their use." The state alone has half a million government-owned vehicles in use. With 32.5 million vehicles on the road, California accounts for 13.5 percent of all U.S. vehicles, according to the Transportation Department.

Follow the jump for the rest of the story.

[Sources: AP, The Detroit News]

To refresh your memory, Lockyer's suit had accused the automakers of harming human health and the environment by producing vehicles that contribute to global warming. Lockyer had sought damages for high levels of pollution because the technology to produce cleaner vehicles exists and is readily available, but the manufactures have chosen to fight instead of producing cleaner vehicles over the years. And according to the original suit, "global warming has already injured California, its environment, its economy and the health and well-being of its citizens."

"The thrust of what we're saying is the technology to produce vehicles that emit far less greenhouse gases exists," Teresa Schilling, a Lockyer spokeswoman said. "They fight any attempt to get them to cut back on their pollution."

The case has drawn a lot of attention for its apparent lack of common sense, seeing as how the carmakers have met current legislation and even California's stricter-than-average regulations over the years. But part of Lockyer's case lies in the fact that automakers are still fighting California over the 2002 law requiring them to cut emissions. That law, spurred by the California Air Resources Board, is designed to cut carbon dioxide emissions from cars and light trucks by 25 percent and from sport utility vehicles by 18 percent starting in 2009. That law was copied by 10 other states, but so far none of those other states has followed California's lead on the lawsuit.

Might seem frivolous to some, but to others it is a common sense approach to getting the carmakers to change their ways. If they are fighting the CARB requirements, even though the technology is readily available, how can they not be held responsible for increased pollution? It's surely not the last we'll hear on this issue. We'll keep you posted.

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