State Senate Committee Blocks Repeal of Law Linking Virginia to California Emissions Rules

Senate Democrats killed legislation to repeal a law that links Virginia’s emissions standards to California regulations on Tuesday, while a similar bill advanced out of committee in the House of Delegates on Wednesday.

The Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Conservation Committee bundled several similar bills from Republicans into a vote on State Senator Stephen Newman’s (R-Bedford) SB 779 and voted eight to seven to kill the legislation after about an hour discussion of the bills with legislators and the public.

“In just two and a half years, in the 2025-2026 year, EV [electric vehicle] sales in Virginia must be 35 percent. I just challenge you, does anybody even think that’s possible? Right now, it’s less than one percent,” Newman told the committee.

“Will there be emergency regulation by California? I don’t know that either, but the current plan is to fail,” he said.

Newman and State Senator Bill DeSteph (R-Virginia Beach), who sponsored a similar bill, both said they own electric vehicles.

Newman was also concerned about the 2035 deadline when 100 percent of new cars need to be zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs).  He and other Republicans expressed concerns that the vehicles would be impractical for some Virginians; that banning them in Virginia could lead consumers to buy in other states or to a violation of the Interstate Commerce Clause; and that Virginia’s electrical infrastructure won’t be able to handle the increased demand. Additionally, they criticized Virginia law granting authority to an un-elected board in California.

“We believe what California may require for their citizens should not be a one-size-fits-all solution for Virginians, ” Deputy Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources Jennifer Walle said on behalf of the Youngkin administration during public comment.

Democrats argued that even if Virginia pulls out of California’s standards, the Commonwealth will still be subject to federal standards which are likely to include similar deadlines soon.

State Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) said a transition in the market is coming.

“It’s coming sooner than a lot of people thought two years ago. And we can either get ahead of it and prepare and take advantage of the infrastructure money this is coming to help build our infrastructure to support it. And we can incentivize having more of these vehicles come to Virginia faster, or we can put our heads in the sand and say we’re just going to pretend that this isn’t happening,” she said.

State Senator Barbara Favola (D-Fairfax) said cleaner air and a clean environment is a public health issue, and State Senator Ghazala Hashmi (D-Chesterfield) noted that used gas-powered vehicles will still be legal to sell even after 2035.

A lobbyist on behalf of the Virginia Manufacturers Association agreed with Newman’s assessment that it is impossible to meet the 2026 deadline, listed human rights concerns about mines and refining facilities related to cobalt production, and said there is no solution to recycle batteries.

Other lobbyists said that the 2026 deadline also allows credits and Low Emissions Vehicles like hybrids, giving more flexibility; that automotive manufacturers are already moving to be 100 percent electric by the 2035 deadline; and that although there are emissions related to EVs, they don’t come from cars while they are driving, thus improving air quality for roadside communities. A spokesperson for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation said vehicle emissions are a source of nitrogen pollution in the bay water.

Alliance for Automotive Innovation spokesperson Josh Fisher, speaking on behalf of automakers, said he was neutral on whether or not to repeal Virginia’s law that follows California standards, but he said if it remains in place, major incentives and infrastructure are needed to help automakers meet the rules.

“I’m here to advocate for consumer purchase rebates and enhanced EV charging infrastructure build out, updating your state building codes. These are all policies that you need to adopt if you’re going to move forward with this policy,” he said.

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network.  Email tips to [email protected].


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3 Thoughts to “State Senate Committee Blocks Repeal of Law Linking Virginia to California Emissions Rules”

  1. AmericanPatriot

    Elections have consequences!
    Talk about Armageddon. Being controlled by California? What could possibly go wrong? If this and the crux of the climate change hoax isn’t or can’t be reversed, this country will be doomed, and Chinese and Russian ships will be sitting in former USA ports.
    This is what happens when there is only one strong party that controls a country.

  2. RedCar

    OK, folks. Start paying attention. This legislation will kill all hope of doing anything rational regarding climate. Every vote for legislators – mostly Democrats – who support it is a vote to consign the poor, both here and around the world, to permanent poverty. It will also add many of you to their number.

  3. Frederick T Brox

    If Democrats are for something it will injure the taxpayer and the nation
    Just look around for hundreds of perfect examples of planned failure.