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By Jay Root

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Senate approved a sweeping clean-air bill that would give residents rebates when buying energy-efficient appliances and plug-in hybrid cars.

The legislation, which passed on a preliminary vote of 22-9 Wednesday, also would set higher standards for efficiency in building codes and provide financial incentives for emissions-reducing technologies and the use of clean energy.

The bill, which faces more hurdles before becoming law, would use over $300 million from the Texas Emissions Reduction Program, funded by vehicle title transfer fees, officials said.

"It's another aggressive step forward to implement cutting edge technologies," said Sen. Kip Averitt, R-Waco, author of the proposal. "We've been making tremendous progress."

All of the Democrats in the Senate supported the measure. Nine Republicans opposed it.

The legislation calls for providing $4,000 rebates for the purchase of plug-in hybrid vehicles. The appliance incentive would apply to used air conditioners and refrigerators, and consumers would have to retire their old equipment to get the rebates.

The bill contains $100 million for incentives that qualifying Texans could get to replace old, polluting vehicles, Averitt said.

It would also give state environmental regulators more power to look beyond individual permits for industrial polluters, allowing them to consider the cumulative effects of multiple permits.

In addition, the legislation would require state environmental agencies, including the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Public Utility Commission and the Texas Railroad Commission, to participate in federal discussions aimed at lowering greenhouse gases.

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