The Bulletin

Virginia joins brief supporting challenge of vehicle emissions rule

By: - November 17, 2022 12:01 am

Evening rush hour traffic on I-66 westbound, as seen from eastbound lanes near Centreville, Virginia. (Creative Commons/Flickr)

Virginia joined in on a brief in support of a multi-state lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency over a proposed new rule for greenhouse gas emission standards for vehicles.

The brief, led by West Virginia, states the new rule is an “overbroad, top-down regulatory scheme that tries to force people into electric vehicles while disregarding that mandate’s serious consequences.”

The rule, which is being finalized by the EPA, would impose more stringent vehicle emissions standards than the current framework for passenger cars and light trucks, which applies to model years 2023 through 2026. The new restrictions are intended to urge automakers to use clean technologies and incentivize production of electric vehicles. 

“This rule is a critical step to setting the U.S. on a path to a zero-emissions transportation future,” the EPA stated

The states of Texas, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma and South Carolina, all of which have Republican attorneys general, filed the initial suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit challenging the rule. Among their contentions are that the rule unreasonably advantages electric vehicles by assuming they contribute to zero-emission goals and creates a dependence on foreign countries for battery components.

The amicus curiae brief signed by Virginia in support of that position argues the rule threatens the country’s energy independence and security, citing a lack of domestic mining of minerals such as cobalt that are critical for electric vehicle batteries and shortfalls in domestic manufacturing of batteries and magnets used in EVs.

Further, increased electric vehicle usage resulting from the new rule will put strains on the electric grid and undermine a renewable fuel program, the brief argues. 

Virginia would not be directly subject to the EPA’s rule for long, which would go into effect for 2023 and later model years. Under 2021 legislation, Virginia adopted California vehicle emission standards. But those don’t take effect until 2024, leaving Virginia beholden to the federal regulation next year. California recently announced it will prohibit new gas-powered vehicle sales beginning in 2035, a move Virginia officials say the commonwealth will have to follow if it remains tethered to the California standards.

Under the Clean Air Act, California is allowed to set more stringent vehicle emission regulations than those adopted by the federal government, which 14 other states follow. Virginia can follow either California standards or federal standards. 

Still, Virginia must follow federal law, and because “Virginia Democrats passed a law requiring Virginia to currently follow laws designed for California does not mean that the federal EPA rules are irrelevant,” Victoria LaCivita, a spokesperson for Attorney General Jason Miyares, said in an email. 

The new EPA regulations will also affect the national car market, thereby affecting the price Virginians will pay for cars in the long and short term, LaCivita said. 

“The Attorney General joined the amicus brief because he is a strong opponent to federal overreach by any agency,” LaCivita said. “He is opposing the EPA’s attempted federal overreach strategy here to also prevent other agencies from using it to unconstitutionally expand their own power.”

Miyares joins GOP attorneys general from Kansas, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wyoming as well as West Virginia in filing the brief. 

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Charlie Paullin
Charlie Paullin

Charles Paullin covers energy and environment for the Mercury. He previously worked for Northern Virginia Daily in the Northern Shenandoah Valley and for the New Britain Herald in central Connecticut. An Alexandria native, Charles graduated from the University of Hartford initially wanting to cover sports. He's received several Virginia Press Association awards for his coverage of crime, local government and state politics. Catch him in nature experiencing all the outdoors has to offer, and contact him at [email protected]

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