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Cap-and-trade rules approved by California Air Resources Board

The state took a major step toward the development of a low-carbon economy by approving a cap on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions by refiners, utilities and other energy companies.

After a 10-hour meeting Thursday, the California Air Resources Board voted 9-1 to approve the rules for a cap-and-trade program, which will reduce the amount of carbon emissions from the state's 500 largest polluters.

"This is a historic venture," said Mary Nichols, the air board's chairman. "The step we are about to take is one that we will all look back as a capstone of this (Schwarzenegger) administration's work."

The cap-and-trade system, which will begin operating in January 2012, is a key component of the state's landmark climate change law, which aims to reduce carbon emissions to 1990's level by 2020.

Under the plan, the state will provide a limited amount of carbon emission allowances for major industrial polluters.

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