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California v. General Motors Corp.

ELR Citation: 37 ELR 20239
Nos. No. C06-05755, (N.D. Cal., 09/17/2007)

The court dismisses the state of California's nuisance claim against automakers for contributing to climate change. The state sought to hold each automaker jointly and severally liable for creating, contributing to, and maintaining a public nuisance under federal and/or state law. The complaint, however, raises nonjusticiable political questions that are beyond the limits of the court’s jurisdiction. Climate change and its causes are issues of public and foreign policy fraught with scientific complexity, as well as political, social, and economic consequences. Resolution of the state's federal nuisance claim would require the court to make an initial policy decision. In addition, by seeking to impose damages for the automakers' lawful worldwide sale of automobiles, the state's nuisance claims sufficiently implicates the political branches’ powers over interstate commerce and foreign policy, thereby raising compelling concerns that warn against the exercise of subject matter jurisdiction in this case. There is also a lack of judicially discoverable or manageable standards by which to resolve the state's claim. Hence, the political branches of the federal government, and not the courts, should address and resolve the state's concerns.