Virginia Democrats force state to adopt California’s crackdown on gas cars

Democrats in the Virginia Senate successfully rejected multiple attempts made Tuesday by Republicans to repeal a 2021 law aimed at curbing carbon emissions by tethering state regulations to those set in California.

Lawmakers on the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee ultimately killed multiple GOP-introduced measures, which had been consolidated into one, in a party-line vote of 8-7. Virginia Republicans including Gov. Glenn Youngkin have loudly opposed the 2021 legislation, arguing it threatens grid reliability and mandates the state to pursue unrealistic measures.

‘As the governor stated, Democrats in Virginia outsourced the decision-making on energy policy to unelected bureaucrats in California,’ Macaulay Porter, a spokesperson for Youngkin, said in a statement.

In March 2021, former Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam signed the legislation — the so-called Clean Cars bill — in an effort to bolster Virginia’s clean energy transition and boost the number of electric vehicles sold throughout the state. The bill, which was praised by environmental groups, also mandates that Virginia automatically adopts tailpipe emissions standards implemented in California.

Republicans opposed the Clean Cars legislation at the time Northam signed it into law and again expressed their ire for its provisions in August when a California environmental agency moved forward with a rule requiring all new vehicle sales to be electric — and banning new gas-powered car sales — beginning in 2035. Under its 2021 law, Virginia is required to adopt the same rule.

Youngkin vowed in his 2022 Energy Plan released in October to ‘repeal the legislative mandate tying Virginia to California’s electric vehicle mandate to protect grid reliability.’ He also said he would ‘prevent this ridiculous edict from being forced on Virginians.’

And Republicans introduced the measures Democrats swatted down on Tuesday.

‘The vote today shows that Youngkin-led attacks on Virginia’s bedrock climate laws are a dead end and that he should get on the side of making pollution progress and not stand against it,’ said Walton Shepherd, the Virginia policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group that opposes fossil fuels.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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