The state's new attorney general, wants to settle a federal lawsuit filed by his predecessor that seeks millions of dollars from automakers for the greenhouse gases produced by their vehicles.
Attorney General Jerry Brown sent a letter Wednesday to attorneys for the six major automakers California is suing, asking to meet personally with the chief executives of General Motors, Ford, DaimlerChrysler, Toyota, Honda and Nissan.
"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 environmental challenges posed by global warming," Brown said in the letters.
In December, automakers filed a motion seeking to dismiss the lawsuit. After filing a response Thursday, Brown said in a San Francisco news conference that he has confidence in the state's case.
"We think we have a solid case, and we're going to pursue it vigorously," Brown said. "The ultimate objective is ... to prevent the catastrophic consequences of this global warming problem."
Brown, a former governor, presidential candidate and Oakland mayor who won the attorney general's race in November, inherited the lawsuit from Treasurer Bill Lockyer, a fellow Democrat forced out of the AG job by term limits.
Monetary damages sought
The suit, filed in September, marked the first time a state has sought monetary damages for the effects caused by Earth-warming gases emitted by cars and trucks.
Dave Barthmuss, a General Motors spokesman, said executives would consider meeting with Brown and were "always willing to engage in an open and honest debate."
He said GM believes the lawsuit "lacks any merit," but that it is willing to collaborate with California to bring more emission-reducing technologies to the road.
"General Motors and the entire automotive industry is already putting on the road advanced technologies and alternative-fuel vehicles that are doing the kinds of things that California seems to want us to be doing," Barthmuss said.
California is the world's 12th largest producer of greenhouse gases, and more of those emissions come from vehicles than any other source.
Global warming’s changes
The lawsuit claims California will spend millions of dollars combating the changes that global warming is expected to bring to the state. Warmer winters are expected to melt the Sierra snowpack earlier each year, lead to flooding in the Central Valley and threaten the state's water supply for cities and farms.
Lawmakers already are debating how to ensure that California has enough water in the future, especially with the state's population expected to hit 55 million by 2050.
Automakers also are challenging another California law, approved in 2002, that requires reductions in emissions from cars and light trucks.