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Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin is co-sponsoring federal legislation that would allow Maryland and 14 other states to begin limiting greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles – a move that would effectively overrule an EPA decision last month to deny the states that authority.

"The EPA has clearly chosen to ignore the issue of global warming," the Maryland Democrat said in a statement. "It's time that states are allowed to take meaningful action to protect the health of [their] citizens."

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Maryland was one of 15 states that had been waiting for EPA approval to begin enforcing new rules developed by California to reduce the gases that scientists say contribute to global warming. EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson denied the so-called California waiver last month – against the recommendations of his legal and techncal and staffs.

Johnson said new fuel-efficiency standards signed by President Bush last month rendered the California proposal unnecessary. He is scheduled to answer questions about his ruling Thursday at a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Cardin is a member of the panel.

Alone among the states, California has the authority to develop its own air quality standards, subject to federal approval. Once the EPA issues a California waiver, other states may enforce the same rules.

Maryland joined the effort last year when Gov. Martin O'Malley signed the Maryland Clean Car Act. The law requires a 30-percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions from all cars sold in the state by 2016.

Several states have joined California in a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the EPA decision. The Reducing Global Warming Pollution for Vehicles Act, introduced today by Sen. Barbara Boxer and co-sponsored by Cardin, represents another way the states could gain authority to enforce the new rules.

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