Virginia backs down on California's electric car mandate

Governor of Virginia. Glenn Youngkin announced that the state will no longer follow California's strict electric vehicle (EV) regulations starting next year, marking a significant policy shift in Virginia's approach to vehicle emissions and green energy initiatives.

“Once again, Virginia is declaring its independence – this time from a misguided electric vehicle mandate imposed by unelected politicians nearly 3,000 miles from the Commonwealth,” Youngkin said in a statement.

The governor's announcement came amid ongoing efforts to distance the state from green energy mandates enacted by the previous administration.

Earlier this year, Youngkin urged state lawmakers to repeal the 2021 law that tied Virginia's emissions standards to California's, but the bill failed due to the Democratic majority in the General Assembly.

Despite the setback, Attorney General Jason Miyares issued an official statement supporting the governor's stance. “Virginia is not required to comply with the extensive new mandates passed by the unelected California Air Resources Board (CARB) that are set to take effect on January 1, 2025,” Miyares confirmed.

During a press conference on June 5, Youngkin emphasized the importance of state autonomy in policymaking. “I have the honor of announcing once and for all California's electric vehicle mandate in Virginia. The notion that the government should dictate to Virginians what car they must drive is simply wrong,” he said.

Federal law offers states the choice of either following federal vehicle emissions standards or adopting California's stricter rules. In 2021, Virginia, under a Democratic governor, passed the Virginia Clean Economy Act, committing to a green energy transition by 2050 and aligning its electric car policies with California's. California has mandated that all new cars be zero-emissions vehicles by 2035 and imposes penalties on automakers that don't comply.

Republicans in Virginia have always opposed these regulations but have had difficulty overturning them legislatively. Miyares identified one provision in the law that could allow Virginia to opt out. “The Virginia Air Quality Commission has never approved or adopted these ACCII (Advanced Clean Car Program II) regulations, and because there was an explicit sunset provision for ACCI, it expires on December 31 of this year,” Miyares explained.

He also noted that the permissive language in Virginia's law regarding ACCI allows the state to abandon California's clean car policy by 2025. “As Attorney General of Virginia, I can conclude no other than that the provisions binding us to California's ACCII are no longer applicable and that Virginians will once again enjoy consumer freedom,” Miyares said.

Republican politicians have expressed their full support for this move.

“The citizens of Virginia, not the unelected bureaucrats of California, should be able to choose the cars that meet the needs of their families,” said the Republican Senate Majority Leader. Michael McDougle posted on X. Del. Nick FreitasR-Culpeper, also expressed his approval, calling the previous mandate one of the “most ridiculous political decisions imposed on the citizens of Virginia.”

Anna Harden

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