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Youngkin to ditch California electric vehicle standards

Gov. Glenn Youngkin is seen through a window, with a car on the other side
Shaban Athuman
VPM News
Gov. Glenn Youngkin gives remarks about leaving the California electric vehicle mandate on Wednesday, June 5, 2024 at Loyalty Toyota in Chester, Virginia.

Beginning next year, Virginia will follow federal emissions regulations.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced Wednesday that Virginia would no longer adhere to electric vehicle standards enacted by the California Air Resources Board.

"The idea that unelected bureaucrats in California should be deciding for Virginians what car they drive is wrong,” Youngkin said at the Loyalty Toyota dealership. “Finally unleashing the power of the consumer to, in fact, drive what inventory is carried here and [decide] how they're serviced is what free enterprise is all about."

The Virginia General Assembly in 2021 approved a plan for the state’s air board to adopt the standards, which required all new passenger vehicles sold in the commonwealth to be electric by 2035 — though 20% of those could be plug-in hybrids.

California’s requirements will expire in January 2025; new regulations there augment the plan and were approved for next year.

Instead of relying on those updated rules, Youngkin said the commonwealth will follow federal emissions standards after 2024.

The Republican governor used an opinion by state Attorney General Jason Miyares as a basis for his decision.

Some auto dealers supported the move.

“My dealers throughout the commonwealth of Virginia are stuck with a lot of EVs on the ground, unable to sell those EVs,” said Don Hall, president of the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association. "People don’t have any interest in paying for those cars. The average EV today is running $50, $60, $70,000 — a lot more expensive than a typical car.”

The company that runs Kelley Blue Book, a vehicle research organization, reports the average price of electric cars in April was about $55,000 — compared to about $45,000 for a car with a gas-powered engine.

At the event, Miyares also laid out his justification for the opinion.

“When the General Assembly passed this bill, they used language like ‘may’ versus language that commands,” he said, adding the law could have been more narrowly worded. “The General Assembly could have used that language, but they failed to do so.”

Democrats were quick to criticize the decision.

State Sen. Ghazala Hashmi described Youngkin’s move as a way to circumvent the legislature.

“My perspective, and the perspective of many people, is that the governor is taking an illegal action in trying to unilaterally pull Virginia out of standards that we have already agreed to and that [are a] part of our Virginia code,” she said Wednesday afternoon.

Billy Shields is a multimedia journalist with VPM News Focal Point.
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