ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) -- The head of California's air pollution agency on Thursday urged federal regulators to reverse a Bush-era decision that blocks the state's efforts to set its own limits on greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles.
Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, told a packed Environmental Protection Agency hearing in Arlington that if the state is unable to control the gases blamed for global warming from cars and trucks, its other air pollution problems will get worse.
Nichols and other California officials urged the EPA to reverse its March 2008 ruling blocking the state from setting it own emission standards. President Barack Obama has ordered the agency to reconsider the Bush-era decision.
Thirteen other states and the District of Columbia want to adopt California's standards, which would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent in new cars and trucks by 2016.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said the EPA should develop national standards in conjunction with the Transportation Department to improve fuel economy and limit emissions of greenhouse gases from vehicle exhaust.
Levin, making a rare appearance at an agency hearing, said that a global problem like climate change should not be tackled state-by-state.
"The threat of greenhouse gas emissions is not unique to any state," said Levin. "All of our states have varying problems that result from this menace to our planet."
Representatives of the auto industry also pushed for a single, national standard. They argued that a patchwork of regulations will tax an industry already in dire economic straits.
"As long as the federal government is taking unified aggressive action, various state requirements would pose immense costs and provide little environmental benefit," said Mike Stanton, president of the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers.
Carol Browner, the White House coordinator for energy and climate change, has indicated that the Obama administration is considering a national emissions standard.
Because California began regulating vehicle pollution before the federal government did, the state has special status under the Clean Air Act to implement tougher emission standards than those promulgated by the federal government.
But when it comes to greenhouse gases, there are no federal standards.