Youngkin says Virginia will no longer follow stronger car emissions standards

The stronger standards are intended to reduce gas emissions by transitioning to EVs more quickly, a crucial part of addressing the climate crisis. Youngkin’s announcement comes amid recent increases in EV sales and decreases in EV prices. (Photo by Minh Connors for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The stronger standards are intended to reduce gas emissions by transitioning to EVs more quickly, a crucial part of addressing the climate crisis. Youngkin’s announcement comes amid recent increases in EV sales and decreases in EV prices. (Photo by Minh Connors for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

By Isabel Soisson

June 11, 2024

The stronger standards are intended to reduce gas emissions by transitioning to EVs more quickly, a crucial part of addressing the climate crisis. Youngkin’s announcement comes amid recent increases in EV sales and decreases in EV prices.

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced last week that at the end of 2024, Virginia will no longer be following California’s stronger auto emissions standards.

Although the Democratic-controlled General Assembly passed legislation in 2021 authorizing Virginia’s Air Board to adopt the regulation, an official opinion from Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares states that the law as written does not require the commonwealth to follow the next iteration of the standards, which the California Air Resources Board (CARB) recently adopted and which go into effect in Jan. 2025.

As a result, Virginia will follow federal emissions standards starting in 2025, instead of California’s stronger standards, which will require that 35% of new cars sold within participating states be electric beginning with Model Year 2026. That rate will ultimately move up to 100% in 2035.

The stronger standards are intended to reduce gas emissions by transitioning to EVs more quickly, a crucial part of addressing the climate crisis. All 50 states have the option to follow California’s emissions standards instead of the federal standards.

In a statement, Youngkin said that Virginia was “declaring independence” “from a misguided electric vehicle mandate imposed by unelected leaders.”

“The idea that the government should tell people what kind of car they can or can’t purchase is fundamentally wrong,” he said. “Virginians deserve the freedom to choose which vehicles best fit the needs of their families and businesses.”

Youngkin’s move was condemned by Virginia Democratic Senate Majority Leader Scott Surovell.

“He seems to think he has more power than Vladimir Putin,” Surovell said via text message to the Associated Press. “The governor is breaking the law and the AG is giving him cover.”

Environmental groups also say the move is an illegal overreach of Youngkin’s powers.

“It’s interesting that after three years of trying to get the General Assembly to repeal the law, they suddenly decided that the General Assembly doesn’t have to repeal the law. They can just do it themselves,” Trip Pollard, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, which lobbied for the passage of the original legislation, told Inside Climate News.

An Associated Press poll released last week found that 4 in 10 US adults say they would be at least somewhat likely to consider buying an electric vehicle (EV) the next time they buy a car. That same poll found that 46% of Americans say they are not too likely or not at all likely to purchase an electric vehicle.

Youngkin’s announcement comes amid recent increases in EV sales. Data from Kelley Blue Book, a Cox Automotive company, shows that a record 1.2 million US vehicle buyers chose to go electric last year. The EV share of the total US vehicle market was 7.6% in 2023, up from 5.9% in 2022.

Those strong sales have been buoyed in part by the declining cost of electric cars. Two years ago, new car buyers would have spent about $17,000 more on average for a new EV than for a new gas-powered car. That gap has been rapidly closing, shrinking to $5,000 last month, according to data from Cox Automotive.

Among those who told the AP they were reluctant to buy an EV, high prices and a lack of easy-to-find charging stations are cited as major concerns.

Recent federal legislation aims to address both of those issues.

President Biden’s 2022 Inflation Reduction Act included a new tax credit that offers consumers up to $7,500 off the purchase of certain models of new EVs—or $4,000 for used EVs— at the point of sale. In order to qualify for this tax credit, single filers must make less than $150,000 annually; for joint filers, the household’s income must be less than $300,000 per year.

Only electric vehicles assembled in North America qualify, and cars that cost more than $55,000 aren’t eligible. Trucks and vans that cost more than $80,000 are also not eligible.

Those tax credits have translated to an average savings of $6,900 per vehicle sold in the US in 2024, marking a collective savings of $600 million, according to the US Treasury.

Another of Biden’s laws, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, aims to address the concerns about chargers. The law has allocated $62.5 million in funds for Virginia to build out a network of EV chargers in the coming years to help alleviate “range anxiety” that is holding back many would-be EV buyers.

  • Isabel Soisson

    Isabel Soisson is a multimedia journalist who has worked at WPMT FOX43 TV in Harrisburg, along with serving various roles at CNBC, NBC News, Philadelphia Magazine, and Philadelphia Style Magazine.

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