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California poised to vote on new 'clean car' regulations

SAN FRANCISCO — The head of California's air quality board on Thursday called proposed rules that would require automakers to build less-polluting cars and trucks by 2025 a historic move for a cleaner environment.

California Air Resources Board Chairman Mary Nichols said she hopes the rules to require that vehicles emit about 75 percent less smog-producing pollutants will "lead the nation and the world."

The new standards, which also include big cuts in greenhouse gas pollutants, would begin with new cars sold in 2015, and get increasingly more stringent until 2025. The rules also mandate that one of every seven new cars sold in 2025 in the state be a zero-emission or plug-in hybrid vehicle.

"We can't afford to wait. We have to act on these issues now," she said at the panel's meeting.

The state's smog emissions standards are often more strict than federal ones, which means other states often adopt them.

Fourteen states, including New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts, have adopted California's current emissions goals, which is why the new regulations could have a wide-ranging effect.

The regulations, which could be voted on as early as today, will continue the state's first-in-the-nation greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and trucks, which took effect in 2009. This time, the greenhouse gas reduction element was designed with federal regulators so it will match national standards expected to be passed this year.