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Virginia set to become the first state in the southeast to adopt clean car standards

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Transportation accounts for 48 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Virginia, and associated air pollution from cars and trucks is also an immediate health risk.

2020 report from Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action found that fine particulate matter pollution from Virginia’s cars and light trucks contributes to 92 deaths, 71 non-fatal heart attacks and 2,600 child asthma attacks every year.

The health impacts from reducing vehicle emissions are disproportionate across Virginia, as elderly, lower income and minority populations experience a 61 percent higher death rate attributable to our vehicle air pollution.

The Virginia State Senate voted 21-15 Friday to pass HB 1965, which directs the State Air Pollution Control Board to implement a low-emissions and zero-emissions vehicle program for motor vehicles with a model year of 2025 and later.

With this rule, Virginia would join 14 other states and the District of Columbia in adopting clean car standards.

This bill will go to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk to sign and enact into law.

The bill was supported by a large coalition that included environmental justice advocates, health professionalsbusinesses, and auto dealers.

The Advanced Clean Car standards work in combination with other complementary policies for electric vehicle incentives and increasing ridership on public transit to build a cleaner, more equitable transportation system.

“Our state lawmakers put Virginia on the path to be the first state in the Southeast to adopt clean car standards,” said Kelsey Crane, Sierra Club Virginia campaign and policy director. “Coming into the 2021 session, the environmental community made it clear that lawmakers can’t commit to protecting the health of Virginians without addressing transportation pollution. Adopting clean cars standards will create jobs, save lives, and help preserve our climate. We commend the state legislature for adopting policy that puts climate action, communities and public health first, and we are hopeful that Gov. Northam will sign the clean car standards bill into law.”

“The clean transportation future is here, and Virginia has answered the call for cleaner vehicles. Momentum is building across the nation as more and more states and territories move forward with bold, life-saving policies to accelerate electric vehicle adoption and reduce dangerous transportation pollution,” said Rebekah Whilden, campaign representative with the Sierra Club’s Clean Transportation for All campaign. “This bill will ensure that Virginians don’t have to travel out of the state to purchase electric vehicles.”

“With the passage of Clean Car Standards, Virginia will see an acceleration in transportation electrification, yielding immediate health, environmental, and economic benefits for all Virginians,” said Mary Rafferty, executive director of the Virginia Conservation Network. “Virginians will benefit from Clean Car Standards as manufacturers prioritize sending their EVs to Virginia dealerships, therefore expanding consumer choice and keeping automobile jobs in Virginia. The adoption of more EVs means a reduction in air pollution from transportation emissions, and a healthier environment for residents of the Commonwealth.

“The General Assembly has just taken another bold step to protect the health of Virginians by passing the Clean Cars legislation,” said Dr. Smantha Ahdoot, chair of Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action. “Supporting the transition to electric vehicles will prevent asthma exacerbations, heart attacks and premature deaths by reducing vehicle pollution while also helping preserve a healthy climate future for our children and grandchildren. On behalf of more than 400 health professionals across the Commonwealth, Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action applauds the passage of this bill and the benefits it will bring to the health and welfare of our patients and communities.”

“The Clean Cars bill will be the most significant step Virginia has taken to curb tailpipe pollution from cars and trucks,” said Trip Pollard, land and community program manager at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “It’s good for our health, it’s good for our environment, and it’s good for consumers. Transportation is by far the leading source of carbon pollution in Virginia. Today’s vote signals that the General Assembly is serious about addressing climate change.”


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