Virginia’s tie to California law causing split in opinions over vehicle standards

Published: Aug. 31, 2022 at 4:48 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WVIR) - Virginia may be impacted by a law passed over on the other side of the country: California is banning the sale of new gas powered cars by 2035.

Then-Governor Ralph Northam signed a bill back in 2021 that tied Virginia to California’s vehicle emission standards. Now, Virginia would also have to ban the sale of new gas powered cars in 13 years if there is not a change in law.

“This is a one of the risks whenever you tie your law to another state’s laws that you’re kind of stuck with them as they change,” 58th District Delegate Rob Bell (R) said.

Del. Bell says he voted against House Bill 1965. He says there’s aspects of it being overlooked that he does not think are as feasible for the commonwealth.

“There’s a much quicker impact, which is by 2026, which is obviously just a few years away, the sales have to be 35% hybrid or electric. At this point, Virginia has 2%. And so whereas California is closer to the number they’re setting, Virginia is nowhere close,” Bell said.

Bell says to change this would require a change in Virginia law, including efforts in the General Assembly.

57th District Delegate Sally Hudson (D) says she doesn’t want the law to change just yet.

“It would be a real mistake for us to step backward,” Del. Hudson said.

Governor Glenn Younkin (R) has expressed that he wants to work to untie Virginia from this California law, but Hudson believes that wouldn’t be a smart plan.

“The federal government gives states two options: We can either use the national emission standards for vehicles, or we can adopt the standards that were first developed by California. So Virginia doesn’t have the authority to design our own standards,” she said.

Hudson says auto manufacturers are prepared to make the switch to comply with these new standards: “They’re planning to do it faster than is required by law. General Motors has already committed to transitioning its North American fleet by 2030. Buick has done the same,” she said.

However, Bell is a bit more hesitant of that progress. It’s the 35% hybrid or electric by 2026 that keeps worrying him: “The dealers have to sell, the manufacturers have to provide cars at that percentage. And so, that’s the issue that the amount of change that would be required over that period is much more sudden now,” Bell said.

Bell says that means losing options for car buying, but Hudson says with more electric vehicles, they’d be cheaper for everyone.

“Clean cars have to be part of combating climate change, because transportation is the single largest source of climate emissions. So it’s not the whole problem, but it’s part of the problem,” Hudson said.

Nothing is set in stone, and the General Assembly could still change this legislation. NBC29 also reached out to Governor Youngkin for an interview but he was not available.

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