Several state and local governments have launched a campaign to impose greenhouse gas emissions standards on the US airline industry, not long after top federal officials warned the USA might see a European-style environmental backlash.

Five US states - California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New Mexico and Pennsylvania - plus Washington DC and New York City submitted a petition to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on 5 December.

The petition, also signed by Southern California's South Coast Air Quality Management District, suggests the EPA impose emissions limitations and/or operational practices on airlines.

The petition comes months after former US FAA administrator Marion Blakey and Boeing Commercial Airplanes boss Scott Carson warned against the dangers of outsiders defining environmental policy for the US aviation industry, following the example of the European Union.

Green Skies aviation environmental consulting firm chief executive Mike Miller says the EPA may not be the appropriate regulator.

"I don't believe that EPA is the right organisation to have jurisdiction over any new rules regarding airline or airport emissions. They have not had any role whatsoever regarding transportation emissions," he says.

Instead, Miller says the aviation industry must collectively tackle emissions before federal or international standards are set.

Government agencies are not the only parties requesting regulation. The Oakland, California, law firm Earthjustice filed a separate petition that requests the EPA require reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft arriving in or departing from the USA.

Filed on behalf of environmental groups Friends of the Earth, Oceana and the Center for Biological Diversity, the petition calls for the use of alternative fuels and more efficient airplane design.

The Air Transport Association (ATA) opposes emissions regulation. "We don't think regulation of aircraft engines for greenhouse gas emission is necessary because we're already driven to be as fuel efficient as possible," ATA environmental affairs vice-president Nancy Young says.

As for increased interest in aircraft emissions, she says, "I'm just hoping we can continue to get the facts out there so the debate is reasoned."

Petitioners say marketplace incentives are not enough. The issue isn't one of motivation," says the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, noting that aircraft contribute 12% of transportation sector emissions in the USA. "We're looking for all sectors to make a contribution to try to reduce this."