updated 7/15/2005 12:52:43 PM ET 2005-07-15T16:52:43

An effort by a dozen states and several cities to make the Environmental Protection Agency regulate heat-trapping greenhouse gases as air pollutants was rejected Friday by a federal appeals court.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals said the government agency had the discretion to take policy judgments in addition to scientific evidence into account in rejecting a petition asking it to order reductions in carbon dioxide and other automobile pollutants blamed for global warming.

Contrary to the states' arguments, it is "not accurate to say ... that the EPA administrator's refusal to regulate rested entirely on scientific uncertainty," Judge A. Raymond Randolph wrote for the three-judge panel.

The court also rejected EPA's claim that it didn't have the authority to order reductions because Congress hadn't specifically ordered it to address greenhouse gases in the Clean Air Act.

Randolph said the court assumed "that EPA has statutory authority to regulate greenhouse gases from new motor vehicles. The question we address is whether EPA properly declined to exercise that authority."

The court noted that it typically defers to agency conclusions based on policy judgments when it is trying to resolved issues on the frontiers of scientific knowledge.

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