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Assembly Passes Bill to Control Emissions of Greenhouse Gas

Environment: The measure would reduce cars' carbon dioxide emissions, a cause of global warming. Davis and auto makers may win changes in Senate.


In a move that could lead to sweeping changes in how cars sold in America are built, the Assembly passed a bill Wednesday that would make California the first state to regulate vehicle exhaust linked to global warming.

The bill now goes to the state Senate, where amendments to answer concerns held by Gov. Gray Davis and auto makers are a virtual certainty.

The measure, written by Democrat Fran Pavley of Agoura Hills, barely cleared the Assembly on a party-line vote.

Democrats argued that California needs to take a leading role in the fight against global warming, whereas Republicans said the air quality board that would set the new standards could not be trusted.

"It's a great step for the state of California, but the hard work now begins," Pavley said.

The bill is a pioneering attempt to require reductions in carbon dioxide emitted by cars and light trucks. Vehicles in California account for about 60% of those emissions, which are not a direct health threat but are a major contributor to climate change.

About 10% of the nation's new car sales occur in California.

"California has a unique and historic role in the design and manufacturing of automobiles," said state Resources Secretary Mary Nichols. "Whatever California chooses to do with cars is important for the rest of country and world market."

Mindful of the bill's potentially far-reaching effects, the governor's office plans to seek revisions once it reaches the Senate to identify the best methods to achieve reductions, win acceptance from auto makers and define how the state Air Resources Board can implement it.

"We need some thoughtful consultation to find a bill the auto industry can live with. This administration would prefer to find a path that brings the interested parties together in the end," said California Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Winston H. Hickox.

Although the bill probably faces a more favorable reception in the Democratic-controlled Senate, Republican lawmakers and a few moderate Democrats questioned whether California should seek a leadership role against global warming.

"This bill represents the worst form of environmental extremism," said Assembly Republican Leader Dave Cox of Fair Oaks.

Assemblyman John Campbell (R-Irvine) argued that efforts to control carbon dioxide emissions would divert resources from a successful campaign to improve air quality by removing common air pollutants.

But supporters argued that California, long a national leader in cleaning up smokestack and tailpipe exhaust, is obliged to act against global warming.

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