Brown to Car Companies: Mellow Out or You Will Pay

By February 11, 2007Global Warming

Upon taking office in January as California’s attorney general, Jerry Brown could have struck a blow for economic growth and legal commonsense by dropping his predecessor’s suit against six major automakers. The grandstanding, power-entranced Bill Lockyer filed the suit last year charging the manufacturers with the public nuisance of contributing to global warming because their products emit carbon dioxide. (Beware, all animate beings! You’re next! And for goodness sakes, hide your internal combustion engines!) We wrote about Lockyer’s abuses here and here.

Brown has now decided that litigious overreach is the way to go, declining to drop the suit. He filed an objection to the automakers’ motion to dismiss, sending them a letter that states,

Unfortunately, California and the automobile industry are engaged in litigation concerning greenhouse gas emissions and the impacts of global warming. As I review the litigation and learn more about the disputes, I am struck by the need for California and the automakers to work together to address the profound enviornmental challenges posed by global warming.

Unfortunately? Such a shame that litigation had to happen. Don’t know how it ever got so far. Yeah, so unfortunate.

Simple solution, Mr. Attorney General. Drop it. Recall your suede-denim secret police. Just drop it. Nothing precludes you from working together in a constructive manner without the abusive litigation. Indeed, nothing precludes you from doing nothing, which would be the proper approach for any attorney general — leaving policy matters to the legislative branch of government, elected by the people to resolve issues through the deliberative process, balancing competing interests.

Which is the point the automakers’ attorney, Theodore Boutrous, made in a letter to Brown:

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.

Moderation in all things, Mr. Attorney General. Civil lawsuits are often used by ambitious politicians to bully companies into submission, it’s true, but who is it you would really punish? Taxpayers, consumers, manufacturers and their employees — and pretty much everyone who hasn’t abandoned California already for a state more approving of economic growth.