Tuesday, September 18, 2007

California v. Automakers Lawsuit Tossed and the Petition to the SEC on Climate Risk Disclosure

The Wall Street Journal's Morning Brief had this to say:

..."Our bottom-line point is that global warming presents exceedingly complex policy issues that must be addressed at the national and international levels by Congress and the president, not through lawsuits seeking damages in the federal courts," Ted Boutrous, lead attorney for the auto companies, tells the Times.

Judge Jenkins essentially agreed that California's complaint was "non-justiciable." But while the result may seem to conflict with recent decisions backing government regulation of greenhouse gases, Judge Jenkins suggested his court was simply the wrong venue for the state.

In April, the Supreme Court chastised the Bush administration over the Environmental Protection Agency's refusal to regulate tailpipe exhaust and other emissions blamed in part for global warming, a decision California tried to muster in its argument against dismissal. Judge Jenkins wasn't convinced.

"While the Supreme Court did not expressly address the issue of justiciability, it certainly did not sanction the justiciability of the interstate global warming damages tort claim now before this court," he wrote. "Rather, the Supreme Court's analysis on the issue of standing counsels with convincing force to the contrary. As noted above, a state has standing to pursue its 'procedural right' through administrative channels."

Last week, the auto makers lost in a different federal district court but in a different way. The judge in that case backed Vermont's regulation of tailpipe emissions, as the New York Times notes, in a decision widely read as encouraging for California. The Vermont precedent may now offer California lawmakers a path to accomplish what the state's lawyers couldn't do in court. In the meantime, former California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who began the suit against auto makers last year, is now tackling global warming in his role as state treasurer. Mr. Lockyer, as the L.A. Times reports, plans to submit a petition to the Securities and Exchange Commission asking the agency to ensure that investors "get more information from oil companies, insurers and other publicly traded companies about how global warming might affect their bottom lines."

We'll have more on both stories. I was looking for legal commentary but unfortunately Climateer's favorite counsel seems more interested in heading off to St. Tropez next week than in explaining justiciability.