RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The sale of new gas-powered cars could be banned in Virginia starting in 2035 but Republicans want to reverse course.
Before Democrats lost power last year, the General Assembly passed a law adding Virginia to a list of more than a dozen states that follow California’s vehicle emission standards, as opposed to less stringent federal regulations.
Last week, regulators in California approved a plan that could stop manufacturers from delivering new gas and diesel fuel vehicles to dealers in those states starting in 2035. Drivers could still buy those vehicles used and they wouldn’t have to get rid of their existing cars.
Governor Glenn Youngkin declined an interview request on Monday. In a statement, Youngkin said, “I am already at work to prevent this ridiculous edict from being forced on Virginians. California’s out-of-touch laws have no place in our Commonwealth.”
Attorney General Jason Miyares echoed Youngkin’s concerns. Miyares also didn’t agree to an interview but his spokesperson, Victoria LaCivita, responded in a statement.
“The Attorney General is hopeful that the General Assembly repeals this law and discontinues any trend that makes Virginia more like California. Unelected California bureaucrats should not be dictating the will of Virginians,” LaCivita said.
Delegate Lamont Bagby, who sponsored the bill at the center of controversy, said the Commonwealth needs to be a leader in the transition to carbon-free vehicles.
“We can’t go backwards. We can’t have Virginia looking like the Flintstones and neighboring states looking like the Jetsons,” Bagby said. “What we need to do is make sure electric vehicles are accessible to everyone and the way we do that is through infrastructure and through rebates.”
Delegate Rob Bloxom, who owns auto repair and auto parts stores, doubts Virginia can create the underlying infrastructure needed to support the switch by 2035. He’s among those trying to repeal the new law linking Virginia’s standards to California’s. Republicans currently hold a majority in the House of Delegates but they’re one vote short in the state Senate.
“It’s just going to be impossible for us to meet those standards,” Bloxom said. “There are not enough chargers to meet this goal. Just the sheer amount of electric flow would probably melt the grids in the rural areas especially.”
Walton Shepherd, Virginia policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said making these changes over more than a decade is doable and necessary to reduce Virginia’s number one source of air pollution.
“This law will be the single biggest bite Virginia will take out of air pollution in our history. It’s a very big deal. It cleans the air and makes driving cheaper so it is something to celebrate,” Shepherd said.
Anne Gambardella, executive vice president of the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association, said it has been difficult for their members to get electric vehicles while supplies are limited since the state has yet to fully adopt California’s standards.
Gambardella said many of the manufacturers they work with are already planning to make the transition to all-electric vehicles by 2035 or before.
“We’re ramping up and are going to be ready for whatever the industry is required to do,” Gambardella said.
As of June 30, 2022, less than 3% of the state’s 6,832,180 passenger vehicle registrations were electric or hybrid, according to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.