They are not an example for the rest of the country and certainly not Virginia right now.” 

Democrats countered that when it comes to transportation emissions, there is no Virginia way. The federal Clean Air Act gives states two choices in setting such emissions standards: adopt those set by the federal government or adopt those set by California under a special waiver in the law. To date, 14 other states and Washington, D.C. have opted for the latter course, embracing either the LEV standard alone or both the LEV and ZEV standards. 

“We can’t cede state control by adopting clean car standards, because we don’t have any state-level oversight to cede at the moment,” said Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond. “Rather, with this bill we would claim our right under the Clean Air Act to adopt stronger state-based emissions standards as 14 other states have already done and three more are in the process of doing.” 

McClellan and others argued that by joining the group of states that have adopted the California standards, Virginia will be able to have a “seat at the table” in crafting future updates, and that the long federal review process will offer the legislature sufficient time to withdraw from its commitment if it doesn’t approve of future targets. 

Republicans remained unconvinced. Newman, who told the Senate that he owns a Tesla and enjoys driving it, called the move “a bad precedent.” And Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham, said the legislature shouldn’t “be imposing this kind of big government decision-making on families in Virginia, on businesses in Virginia.” 

“We should not be giving away the store to California or Northern Virginia,” he said. 

The warnings about California, which have surfaced frequently in energy policy discussions among Virginia lawmakers, prompted one Democratic senator to push back at the dire picture Republicans have painted.  

“For years at Halloween, I used to open the door and go, ‘Boo!’ at the kids when they’d knock on the door,” said Sen. Dave Marsden, D-Fairfax. “But now I’ve found something even more frightening. When they knock on the door, I open the door and I go, ‘California!’” 

The bill cleared the chamber on a 21-15 vote. The addition of amendments including the carbon credit framework will trigger the bill’s return to the House for its approval, but people involved in the bill’s development said they expected few roadblocks there.

Bast said the governor “looks forward to taking action on the bill in due course” and that the administration expects to move “pretty rapidly once this becomes law to adopt the regulations.” 

Environmental groups celebrated the Senate vote, with the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club noting that the legislation will make the commonwealth the first state in the Southeast to adopt clean car standards. 

“In 2020, and now 2021, Virginia’s General Assembly has taken leaps and bounds forward in tackling the climate crisis, first by working to secure our transition away from fossil fuels to power our daily lives and now by moving to reduce harmful tailpipe pollution by putting cleaner cars on the road,” said Michael Town, executive director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters. “We are not across the finish line yet, but we’re close.” 

Hall, of the auto dealers association, said the legislation “positions Virginia as a leader in a global movement.” 

However, he cautioned, further investment in infrastructure and incentives will be necessary to carry out the transition to electric vehicles. 

Some of that work is already underway. A proposal to study the state’s existing charging infrastructure has been working through the legislature, as has a bill that would establish an EV incentive program. The latter, House Bill 1979 from Del. David Reid, D-Loudoun, also cleared the Senate Friday and is expected to be the subject of ongoing negotiations to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions and secure additional funding beyond the $5 million House Democrats have earmarked for the program’s first year.

“Virginia’s already taken some important steps,” said Pollard. “But nothing like these steps.”

Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news outlets supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence.


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You know I'd say the domestic picture is very different, but you know the CDC is always evaluating what can best be done to keep Americans safe," Buttigieg said. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said on Monday that screening US travelers for Covid-19 could be helpful. But she did not expand upon whether there are plans to test domestic travelers. "To the extent that we have available tests to be able to do testing, first and foremost, I would really encourage people to not travel," Walensky said during a White House briefing. "But if we are traveling, this would be yet another mitigation measure to try and decrease the spread." When Buttigieg was asked if he supports the idea of requiring proof of a Covid-19 vaccination before air travel, he said that is up to the CDC. "So, that's not a step that has been taken, and again, CDC is really in the lead on deciding what the right measures will be." Will airports such as LAX in Los Angeles be handling domestic Covid-19 testing in the future? The Biden administration is considering it. The discussion follows a CDC rule that went into effect at the end of January requiring negative Covid-19 tests for international travelers, US citizens and residents entering the United States. The US Travel Association, a national nonprofit industry body, hailed that rule for inbound travelers as "key to reopening international travel." However, the group does not support a testing requirement for domestic air travelers. The new US Covid-19 test requirement for arriving travelers: What you need to know The group called mandatory testing for domestic travelers "impractical," noting that there aren't defined ports of entry and that such a measure could "divert scarce public health resources away from other priorities." Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian called mandatory testing for domestic travelers "a horrible idea," citing few documented cases of Covid transmission aboard airliners and concerns that testing for air travelers would take testing resources away from areas of greater need. "It will not keep domestic fliers safer," Bastian told CNN's Poppy Harlow. "If anything, it's going to keep people away from what they need to do in terms of starting to get back out for not just essential travel, but people need to start reclaiming their lives." He said it would be a "logistical nightmare" that would delay the recovery here of the whole hospitality sector. A 50-state guide to Covid-19 travel restrictions Industry body Airlines for America has also expressed concern about the possible testing requirement for domestic air travel. In a recent letter to the White House, the organization highlighted the risk-based measures to stemming Covid-19 transmission that the industry has adopted and research showing that the risk of in-flight infection is low. "Given the strong scientific evidence that the risk of Covid-19 transmission onboard an aircraft is very low, we believe that a testing requirement for domestic air travel is unwarranted," the letter reads. "Further, public health and economic data indicate that this policy would disproportionately prevent low-income travelers and rural Americans in small communities from travel." A4A also echoed the US Travel Association's concern that such testing would divert resources away from more urgent public health priorities. Airplane manufacturer Boeing is also opposed to mandating testing for domestic air travelers and said the federal government should pay for tests if the requirement is adopted.