Youngkin Announces End to Virginia’s Compliance with California’s E.V. Rules

Glenn Youngkin


Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin announced that the state will no longer comply with California’s stringent electric vehicle (E.V.) mandate by the end of the year. This decision is framed as a move to preserve consumer choice and state autonomy.

Why It Matters

Ensuring states retain the freedom to set their own regulations and safeguard consumer choice is vital for maintaining economic and individual liberties in the United States.

Who It Impacts

This decision primarily impacts Virginia consumers, automakers, and the broader market for electric vehicles.

On Wednesday, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin declared that the state will cease following California’s electric vehicle (E.V.) mandate at the end of the year. This decision marks a significant policy shift aimed at preserving consumer freedom and state sovereignty in automotive regulations. “The idea that government should tell people what kind of car they can or can’t purchase is fundamentally wrong,” Youngkin asserted in his statement. He emphasized that Virginians deserve the liberty to choose the vehicles that best meet their needs.

California initially implemented its Advanced Clean Cars (ACC) standard in 2012, requiring automakers to gradually increase the percentage of zero-emission vehicles in their sales. By 2025, these vehicles were expected to comprise 8% of total sales. The Virginia General Assembly followed suit in 2021, passing House Bill 1965, which directed the State Air Pollution Control Board to adopt similar low-emission and zero-emission vehicle standards. This bill was signed into law by then-Governor Ralph Northam.

However, California’s updated ACC II regulations, introduced in subsequent years, significantly raised these requirements. The new rules mandated that 35% of automakers’ sales be zero-emission vehicles by 2026, eventually reaching 100% by 2035. This escalation prompted concerns in Virginia, particularly from Governor Youngkin and the Republican-controlled House of Delegates, who sought to repeal the state’s adherence to these standards. Despite their efforts, the Democrat-controlled Senate thwarted these attempts.

Youngkin’s recent announcement leverages the legal interpretation that Virginia is only bound to the initial ACC standards, not the expanded ACC II. “An opinion from Attorney General Jason Miyares confirms the law, as written, does not require Virginia to follow ACC II,” Youngkin’s press release stated. Consequently, starting January 1, 2025, Virginia will align with federal emissions standards rather than California’s more stringent requirements.

This decision has sparked criticism from environmental advocates. Nicole Vaughan, communications director for the Virginia Conservation Network, expressed concern over Youngkin’s actions, stating, “We are alarmed that Governor Youngkin thinks that he is above the law.” Vaughan argued that the 2021 legislation clearly directs Virginia to adopt California’s evolving standards. Wyatt Gordon, senior policy manager for land use and transportation at the same organization, echoed these sentiments, calling the withdrawal “undemocratic, short-sighted, and wrong for Virginia.”

Despite these objections, the move highlights a broader debate over state versus federal regulatory powers and the balance between environmental goals and economic freedom. Federal standards, although less stringent than California’s, still aim for a significant increase in electric vehicle sales by 2035. Yet, with E.V.s currently representing only 6.5% of all U.S. vehicle sales, achieving these targets remains a challenging endeavor.

The issue underscores a fundamental clash between ambitious environmental regulations and the practicalities of consumer choice and market readiness. This decision by Governor Youngkin is seen as a defense of state rights and an effort to ensure that policy decisions reflect the preferences and needs of Virginia’s residents rather than being dictated by another state’s legislative framework.