The six largest automakers are asking a federal judge to toss out a lawsuit by California that accuses them of harming human health and the environment by producing vehicles that contribute to global warming.
The American and Japanese auto companies filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Oakland on Friday to dismiss the complaint filed in September by Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer.
An attorney for the carmakers said Saturday that state officials who want to reduce auto emissions should do it through regulation, not litigation.
"It's the classic kind of case that the Supreme Court has said doesn't belong in federal court," said Theodore Boutrous, who represents DaimlerChrysler, General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor North America Inc., American Honda Motor Co. and Nissan North America Inc.
Lockyer claims the automakers are violating public nuisance laws by producing high-emission vehicles and should pay damages for polluting. He says automakers could produce cleaner vehicles but have chosen to fight instead.
"The thrust of what we're saying is the technology to produce vehicles that emit far less greenhouse gases exists," said Teresa Schilling, a spokeswoman for Lockyer. "They fight any attempt to get them to cut back on their pollution."
The lawsuit contends the state is already dealing with the deleterious effects of global warming caused by emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases. Vehicles are the state's largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions.
The current suit comes as automakers are wrangling with California over a 2002 law requiring them to cut emissions. That law has since been copied by 10 other states.
Under the law, the California Air Resources Board has adopted standards designed to cut carbon dioxide emissions from cars and light trucks by 25% and from sport utility vehicles by 18% starting in 2009.
The auto industry is challenging those regulations, arguing that such reductions can come only from stricter fuel-economy standards, which are the province of the federal government. The state argues that emission reductions can be achieved in other ways. That case is expected to go to trial on Jan. 30.