She's not the only one who feels that way. Nine other states, from New York to Oregon, have adopted Pavley's landmark legislation to curb their own emissions. The California law, which took effect in January, gives automakers until the 2009 model year to begin phasing in technology to cut greenhouse gasesCO2 and other tailpipe pollutants that have never before been regulated in the U.S. By 2016, cars and light trucks must reduce their emission of these gases by 30%. Officials from Germany to Japan have flocked to California to study the new rules.
But car companies are suing to reverse them, arguing that the law amounts to a restriction of fuel economya federal prerogative. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, rather than supporting the states' efforts, has indicated it may try to block them, a move that strikes Pavley as particularly wrong-headed. "This is off-the-shelf technology that automakers are already using in Europe," she says. Meanwhile, she’s already moved on to a new front: her latest bill would require power plants, oil refineries and factories to measure, and eventually cap, their greenhouse-gas emissions.