Automakers gained an edge yesterday in the Big Auto vs. California debate, as a federal judge tossed out a lawsuit against the world’s six largest auto companies brought by California Attorney General Jerry Brown. Brown had claimed that because of the harmful environmental effects of vehicles’ greenhouse-gas emissions, the Big Six were running afoul of California’s public nuisance laws. But U.S. District Judge Martin J. Jenkins ruled that the issue should be legislated, not litigated; that calculating the exact percentage of blame to be pinned on automakers was impossible; and that a ruling in favor of Brown would threaten the Bush administration’s foreign policy position — namely, its opposition to the Kyoto Protocol. State officials may appeal. Meanwhile, the sparring is far from over: A California law that would require automakers to cut emissions awaits both a waiver from the U.S. EPA and the settlement of a lawsuit from automakers.

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