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No shortage of opinions on Youngkin EV decision

Miyares shakes hands with Gov. Youngkin with two cars on either side of them
Shaban Athuman
VPM News
Attorney General Jason Miyares shakes hands with Gov. Glenn Youngkin before giving remarks about leaving the California electric vehicle mandate on Wednesday, June 5, 2024 at Loyalty Toyota in Chester, Virginia.

One professor called the decision “shocking,” a state senator described it as “illegitimate,” and car dealership representatives welcomed the move.

In the week following Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s decision to scrap electric vehicle regulations designed by a California environmental board, there were no shortage of opinions on the topic.

“It’s literally dangerous, we are going backward by doing that,” said Arif Sikder, an associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. “If other states decided to do the same thing, it’s going to cause more danger for public health [and] global warming.”

Youngkin unveiled the decision on June 6 at a Chester car dealership, just one day after the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board met. With it, he is reversing guidelines that the General Assembly adopted in 2021. (Those were approved by Youngkin’s predecessor, then-Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat. Those guidelines originally modeled rules in California that would mandate that all new cars sold by 2035 be electric; 20% of those vehicles could still be plug-in hybrids.

At the event, the governor said Virginia would follow less-stringent federal EV rules starting in 2025: “The idea that unelected bureaucrats in California should be deciding for Virginians what car they drive is wrong.”

But if Youngkin was selling his plan from a car lot as being pro–consumer choice, some General Assembly Democrats weren’t buying it.

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.

“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 is part of our Virginia code,” said state Sen. Ghazala Hashmi (D–Chesterfield).

Car dealership representatives say their members are stuck with electric vehicle inventories they can’t move. “My dealers are stuck with a lot of EVs on the ground, unable to sell those EVs. People don’t have an interest in paying for those cars,” said Don Hall, president of the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association. “The average EV these days is running $50- $60- $70,000; a lot more expensive than a typical car.”

Sikder disputed the idea that EV sales are stagnant, pointing to statistics that EV sales in Virginia went up substantially between 2022 and 2023. While some Democrats in the statehouse believe the governor is overstepping his authority, Attorney General Jason Miyares issued an opinion on June 4 backing up the decision..

“When the General Assembly passed this bill, they used words like ‘may,’” said Attorney General Jason Miyares, “‘May’ is permissive, versus language that commands. The General Assembly could have used [more stringent] language. They failed to do so.”

Hashmi believes the issue remains unresolved and could be heading to court.

“I think we’re going to see legal responses from our partner groups… in response to what the governor’s trying to do,” Hashmi told VPM News. “We have one party that refuses to acknowledge that we have climate change, and that we have a responsibility to respond to climate change.”

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