Virginia Won’t Enforce New California Emissions Rules

As of Jan. 1, No EV Mandates Dictating New Auto Purchases in the State
EV charging
California’s ACC II laws will force 35% of new model year 2026 cars to be electric vehicles. (Joint Office of Energy and Transportation)

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Virginia is giving the boot next year to California’s electric vehicle mandates and will no longer be legally obligated to follow “unworkable and out of touch with reality” emissions regulations.

Next year, the state will not enforce California’s Advanced Clean Cars I auto emissions standards, as mandated in 2021 by former Gov. Ralph Northam, because those standards expire at the end of December in favor of stricter ones that Virginia officials won’t adopt.

Current Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced June 5 the state’s forthcoming freedom from being tied to California’s “out-of-touch” emissions laws.

“Once again, Virginia is declaring independence — this time from a misguided electric vehicle mandate imposed by unelected leaders nearly 3,000 miles away from the commonwealth,” Youngkin said. “The idea that government should tell people what kind of car they can or can’t purchase is fundamentally wrong. Virginians deserve the freedom to choose which vehicles best fit the needs of their families and businesses.”

California’s stricter laws (ACC II) will force 35% of new model year 2026 cars to be electric vehicles, with a requirement by 2035 for all new light-duty vehicles bought to be 100% EVs.

Travis Voyles, Virginia’s secretary of natural and historic resources, explained in a June 5 memo to state officials that after ACC I expires at the end of 2024, Virginia will default to the federal standards required under the Clean Air Act. Thus, as of January, ACC II is unenforceable in Virginia, and its automakers will be free to sell new vehicles under current federal regulations.

To underscore this development, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares issued a nine-page opinion to Youngkin and state Sen. Ryan McDougle saying state residents will no longer be legally forced to follow California’s emissions standards as soon as the upcoming calendar year starts.

“EV mandates like California’s are unworkable and out of touch with reality, and thankfully the law does not bind us to their regulations,” Miyares declared. “California does not control which cars Virginians buy, and any thoughts that automobile manufacturers should face millions of dollars in civil penalties rather than allowing our citizens to choose their own vehicles is completely absurd.”

Virginia ACC opinion

If Virginia legislators had decided to mimic California’s forthcoming emissions requirements, Virginia automakers that sold standard, out-of-compliance vehicles would have been fined “upwards of $20,000 per vehicle sold,” Youngkin’s office stated. As of 2023, only 9% of the vehicles sold in Virginia were EVs.

Youngkin’s office predicted that adopting the new California regulations “could have resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties. Virginia auto consumers and dealers could be forced to bear these costs. Not only would this leave auto dealers with less money to pay staff, offer raises and grow their businesses, it could force many small auto dealers to permanently close their doors.”

McDougle is among a group of six state legislators opposed to Virginia’s adoption of new California emissions regulations. “Virginia’s laws should not be determined by California politicians. Instead, our laws should be decided by Virginians who are elected to serve Virginia and address issues that face our commonwealth,” he noted.

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