Va Democrats defeat Republican efforts to remove Virginia from California’s emission rules

January 24, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – Virginia Senate Democrats on Tuesday defeated several Republican efforts to repeal a so-called “clean cars” law that aims to reduce carbon pollution through the adoption of California’s stringent rules for vehicle emissions.

The committee vote marked a critical juncture in the GOP repeal effort – one of this session’s highest-profile environmental debates. While there are still similar measures expected to advance through the Republican-controlled House, they would eventually land before the same Senate committee for a vote.

Environmental groups, who say the adoption of the standards was one of the biggest steps Virginia has taken to address climate change, cheered Tuesday’s outcome.

“The vote today shows that (Gov. Glenn) 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, Virginia policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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Republicans sought unsuccessfully last year to repeal the 2021 law, and Youngkin pledged to try again after California in August set itself on a path to require all new cars, pickup trucks and SUVs be electric or hydrogen by 2035. Under California’s standards, drivers can keep their existing gas-powered cars or buy used ones.

Opponents of following California say its goals are unattainable and that the electric vehicles that will be required – and their batteries – are too expensive for many families. Speakers on Tuesday also raised concerns about whether the power grid would be able to handle the additional demand.

Some Republican senators asked their colleagues to consider at least delaying implementation of the standards.

“I hope that at least there’s a way we can amend this. Do something so that reasonable judgment can guide the day here,” Sen. Richard Stuart said.

The Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee ultimately rolled several similar repeal bills together before voting the consolidated bunch down on an 8-7 party-line vote vote.

The “clean cars” law was initially adopted two years ago, at a time when the state government was under full Democratic control. The measure that then-Gov. Ralph Northam signed into law was a top priority for environmental advocates at the time. It will require that starting in 2024 a certain percentage of new passenger vehicles sold by manufacturers be electric or hybrid electric.

The Eastern Shore’s Senator Lynwood Lewis joined fellow Democrats in voting to kill the repeal of the California laws.

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