Virginia’s republican governor launches idiotic culture war against clean air

Virginia's republican governor launches idiotic culture war against clean air

Virginia’s republican governor says he wants to violate Virginia law to pull the state out of the California Air Resources Board’s clean car regulations, consigning his state to a costly and burdensome future full of pollution and high fuel prices.

California currently sets its own clean car regulations, which it’s allowed to do under the Clean Air Act. The reason for this is because California had clean air regulations before the federal government did, so as long as its regulations exceed the national regulations, it’s given a waiver so it can set its own.

In 2022, California finalized a relatively conservative goal targeting 80%+ all-electric car sales by 2035 (the regulation will allow up to 20% PHEVs), called “Advanced Clean Cars II” (ACC2). The regulation was intentionally made softer than what California itself could achieve, such that other states that aren’t as far ahead on EV adoption as California is would still be able to adopt it.

The reason for this is because other states are allowed to follow those regulations instead of the federal ones, as long as they adopt the regulations fully.

As a result, there are currently several so-called “CARB states,” or section 177 states, which adopt California’s clean car regulations.

Virginia is one of these states, although the state’s republican governor, Glenn Youngkin, said today that he intends to ensure that the state’s clean air regulations will lapse by the end of this year, despite Virginia law stating otherwise.

Strangely, as part of his politically-charged and immaturely-written release announcing this decision, Youngkin saw it fit to include an opinion of the Virginia Attorney General stating that he is allowed to make this unilateral decision attacking Virginians’ rights to breathe clean air.

Why did he have to include this? Because, despite his claim about CARB being “unelected,” the elected Virginia state legislature did indeed pass a law in 2021 making Virginia a CARB state. And the very same Attorney General confirmed in 2022 that Virginia law would adopt California’s regulations. Republicans in VA legislature tried to pass a law to poison Virginians with higher auto emissions, but failed to do so. As a result, Virginia still remains a CARB state, and the US Department of Energy confirms that Virginia adopted the ACC2 regulation in January.

So, despite Virginia law not changing since then, the state’s republican attorney general seems to think something is different now. We wonder if an upcoming election, where a convicted felon has told oil companies he’ll take $1 billion in bribes to turn dirty air into part of his ignorant culture war, might have something to do with that. Either way, Youngkin’s effort today will surely waste plenty of time and taxpayer money in court.

Beyond the flip-flopping of the VA attorney general, Youngkin’s release contains other false statements. For example, Youngkin decries that these regulations are being decided “3,000 miles away,” when they were in fact voted on by Virginia’s legislature itself (which is actually 0.2 miles away from the Governor’s Office – here’s walking directions for you, Glenn).

He also claims that EVs will cost the state more money, which is simply wrong. Each EV brings an average of $10,000 in health savings. This is why these sorts of regulations save states money – the International Council on Clean Transportation says Virginia will save $814 million in yearly health costs by adopting ACC2 and the American Lung Association says VA will gain $30 billion in long-term health benefits from widespread EV adoption. Not to mention tax credit availability, fuel and maintenance savings, and really cheap deals on EVs right now.

Youngkin claims that he seeks to torpedo the law in order to help Virginia’s auto dealers, but in fact the Virginia Auto Dealer Association was supportive of VA’s 2021 law and of California’s ACC2 regulation. VADA correctly recognizes that adopting ACC2 will give Virginians wider choice of high-tech new vehicles, and wants Virginia to be a leader in the move to EVs.

Unsurprisingly, Youngkin’s illegal announcement received a negative response from environmental and consumer groups, like Sierra Club, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, VA League of Conservation Voters (which pointed out that Youngkin also illegally left a regional effort to reduce power plant emissions), and business assocation Advanced Energy United.

So – Youngkin wants to do something that is objectively bad and costly for his state, that his own attorney general acknowledged violates the law, and that is opposed by health, business and environmental orgs – including the auto dealers themselves. And seems to think, by the way the release was written, that this will score him political points.

Meanwhile, electric cars are already making California healthier – benefits that Virginia could have in the future, if not for its republican governor trying to score political points by forcing poison on his populace (and the absurdity of the situation we’re in – that anyone would consider that a political point-scorer – should not go unnoticed).

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