updated 10/4/2007 9:34:41 AM ET 2007-10-04T13:34:41

Environmental groups and California Attorney General Jerry Brown have asked the U.S. government to require oceangoing ships to limit emissions of heat-trapping gases blamed for global warming.

Brown and the groups separately asked the federal Environmental Protection Agency to adopt standards for carbon dioxide output from the thousands of cargo ships, cruise liners and other large vessels that dock at American ports each year.

Marine vessels are responsible for nearly 3 percent of the world's greenhouse gases — equal to the amount generated by all cars in the U.S. — and ship emissions are projected to grow by more than 70 percent by 2020 as global trade expands, according to the petitions.

"If the U.S. is to do its part in reducing the threat of global climate disruption, then EPA must limit the global warming emissions from ships that enter the ports of the United States," Brown said.

The environmentalists' petition was filed by Oakland-based Earthjustice on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth and Oceana.

EPA officials said they would review the requests, which require a response within six months.

The EPA recently asked the United Nations International Maritime Organization, which regulates the global shipping industry, to set international emissions standards for marine vessels.

"Pollution knows no political or geographical boundaries, and the EPA's current proposal to harmonize emissions standards at ports worldwide would deliver cleaner air to all Americans," EPA spokeswoman Jessica Emond said.

Shipping industry officials said they support the EPA's proposal.

"We would prefer to see these issues resolved at the international level," said T.L. Garrett, vice president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association. "Then everyone's on a level playing field. We think it's most efficient way of advancing these environmental initiatives."

The petitions follow the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling earlier this year that the EPA has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases linked to climate change. In response to that decision, the agency has been working on regulations aimed at reducing emissions from cars and trucks.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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