California Attorney General Bill Lockyer is suing six car manufacturers for selling products which contribute to global warming and damage the environment of California.
The state is seeking recompense for past and future damage being done to the its environment and water supply.
California is taking the action against Chrysler, General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Honda, and Nissan. The car makers are accused of making and maintaining a public nuisance by producing vehicles which "collectively emit massive quantities of carbon dioxide".
The complaint notes that 289m tons of carbon dioxide are emitted by vehicles produced by the six manufacturers each year in the US. This represents nine per cent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions and some 30 per cent of emissions in California.
Lockyer said in a statement: "Global warming is causing significant harm to California's environment, economy, agriculture, and public health. The impacts are already costing millions of dollars and the price tag is increasing. Vehicle emissions are the single most rapidly growing source of the carbon emissions contributing to global warming, yet the federal government and automakers have refused to act. It is time to hold these companies responsible for their contribution to this crisis."
The state of California has previously sued tobacco companies for selling cigarettes. US president George Bush has previously denied a link between human activity and global warming.
US carmakers have been through a difficult period and have been forced to offer heavy discounts to try and counter falling sales. ®