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Youngkin Vows to Halt Virginia’s ‘Ridiculous’ California-Style Ban on Gas Powered Cars

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has vowed to put a halt to his state’s requirement to follow California in adopting strict rules for vehicle emissions, calling it a “ridiculous edict” that would eventually ban the sale of gas and diesel-fueled vehicles.

State officials said last week that Virginia is on track to adopt California’s new rules for transitioning to zero-emission vehicles because of a bill passed in 2021 by what was then a Democrat-controlled legislature, linking Virginia’s emission standards to California’s.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) recently adopted new rules to curb emissions, with a target that 100 percent of new cars and light trucks sold in California will be zero-emission by 2035.

‘Ridiculous Edict’

The Virginia law linking the state’s vehicle emission standards to California’s is a state of affairs that Republican leaders in Virginia have pledged to end now that the GOP is in control of the governorship and state House.

“In an effort to turn Virginia into California, liberal politicians who previously ran our government sold Virginia out by subjecting Virginia drivers to California vehicle laws,” Youngkin said in a statement on Twitter. “Now, under that pact, Virginians will be forced to adopt the California law that prohibits the sale of gas and diesel-fueled vehicles.”

“I am already at work to prevent this ridiculous edict from being forced on Virginians. California’s out of touch laws have no place in our Commonwealth,” he added.

In much the same vein, Virginia House Speaker Todd Gilbert, a Republican, said in a statement last week that Republicans in the state legislature plan to put forward a measure that de-links Virginia’s car emission standards from California’s.

“House Republicans will advance legislation in 2023 to put Virginians back in charge of Virginia’s auto emission standards and its vehicle marketplace. Virginia is not, and should not be, California,” Gilbert said.

‘Momentum Is Building’

Virginia’s mechanism for reaching the zero-emission vehicle sales threshold would start at around 8 percent in 2024 and build up from there. According to the program, which applies to manufacturers rather than car dealers, non-compliant manufacturers can buy credits from those that exceed the target.

After then-Gov. Ralph Northam signed the measure into law last year, the move was hailed by environmental groups and Virginia’s environment agency.

“Governor Northam signing the Advanced Clean Cars Program into law is a huge climate achievement,” Elly Boehmer, state director of Environment Virginia said in a statement at the time.

Rebekah Whilden, a representative for the Sierra Club’s Clean Transportation for All campaign, said in a statement after the bill cleared the legislature that, with the measure, “Virginia has answered the call for cleaner vehicles.”

“Momentum is building across the nation as more and more states and territories move forward with bold, life-saving policies to accelerate electric vehicle adoption and reduce dangerous transportation pollution,” Whilden added.

‘Extremely Challenging’

Virginia isn’t the only state that has trigger laws in place to curb the sale of new gas and diesel cars if California passes such rules, with Washington and Massachusetts also on track for adoption of the stricter standards.

Some critics of California’s aggressive zero-emission vehicle sales standards warn that a lack of key EV infrastructure makes adoption of CARB’s new rules “extremely challenging.”

“Whether or not these requirements are realistic or achievable is directly linked to external factors like inflation, charging and fuel infrastructure, supply chains, labor, critical mineral availability and pricing, and the ongoing semiconductor shortage,” said John Bozzella, president and CEO of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, in a statement.

Bozzella added that he and the organization he helms fully back the aim to get more electric vehicles on the road. Still, there are a number of policy issues that need to be addressed before this can succeed.

“The questions policymakers should be asking: are critical mineral and battery supply chains in place? Will the critical mineral mining and processing happen in the U.S.? Can customers afford the vehicles? Do all communities have the same access to level 2 home charging as single-family homeowners?” Bozzella said.

“Resolving these questions will determine the ultimate success of the California regulations and the EV transformation,” he added.

Tom Ozimek


Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he’s ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: ‘Hit your target’ and ‘leave the best for last.’

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