The lobbying was long and intense but, by the narrowest of margins, the State Assembly passed the California Climate Bill, which for the first time gives the agency that regulates air pollution in the state the power to limit emissions of carbon dioxide, the main gas that scientists say is building up in the atmosphere and causing a warming of Earth’s climate, the New York Times (NYT) reported.

The NYT said the vote was 41 to 30, with nine members not voting and with a majority of 41 needed to pass the bill. Democrats control the Assembly 50 to 30, and the vote was mostly along party lines, with Republicans in opposition, the newspaper added.

The California Senate passed the measure 23 to 16 on Saturday and the Assembly approval indicated the bill would soon go to Governor Gray Davis for signing, the NYT said, though a few procedural hurdles might still derail it.

The New York Times cited Davis spokesman Steven Maviglio as saying that the governor stated concerning the bill: “This bill represents good public policy, but it has been subject to many amendments over the past several days. I will read all the amendments when the bill arrives on my desk before making a final decision.”
As expected, comments about the bill’s passing attracted opposing views from the environmental and vehicle manufacturing camps.

The NYT said the environmental advocates called the bill the most significant step ever taken to control heat-trapping gases in the United States, which is the world’s leading source of such pollutants but which, under President Bush, has refused to join a global pact to restrict their emissions.

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Car makers, meanwhile, argue that California is taking a unilateral step to increase the fuel efficiency of vehicles, something the federal government has not done for years, the NYT said.

Because carbon dioxide is given off whenever petrol is burned, the only way to cut how much of it vehicles produce is to make ones that burn less petrol or to sell ones driven by electricity or by other means, the newspaper added.

The NYT said that the California measure – if signed – would not take effect until 2005, and the first models that would come under its restrictions would not be sold until 2009.

Environmental groups said that, even so, this was the most important step to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases since global climate change first came to public attention some 20 years ago, the New York Times said.