After a personal plea from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and more than six hours of testimony from environmentalists and business groups tonight, state pollution regulators approved sweeping rules aimed at reducing greenhouse gases in California and controlling climate change.

The 9-1 vote by the Air Resources Board now places California – with an economy roughly the size of Italy – alongside a host of nations that have enacted a market-based system to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

“I want to show California that we can protect both the economy and the environment. And of course it’s a challenge to do that, there’s no two ways about that, but where there’s a will, there’s a way,” Schwarzenegger told board members in a surprise visit before the vote.

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