Chesapeake Bay Foundation Opposes Virginia Governor’s Withdrawal From Clean Car Standards

Governor’s Announcement Raises Environmental, Public Health, and Legal Concerns

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin today announced his intention to unilaterally withdraw the state from standards requiring a cleaner fleet of vehicles on the Commonwealth’s streets, raising environmental, health, and legal concerns. 

Tailpipe emissions remain a significant driver of water quality pollution, detrimental effects to Virginians’ health, and climate change impacts. Youngkin’s decision undermines Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts, removing a critical tool at a pivotal time in the fight to repair and restore waterways that Virginians depend on for economic, recreational, and health reasons. 

Roughly one-third of the nitrogen pollution in the Bay comes from the air, much of it from power plants and vehicle tailpipe exhaust. This airborne nitrogen can fall directly into the water or wash from the land into nearby streams. Pollution from cars is especially damaging to local rivers and streams because it is more likely to deposit in the surrounding area.

Personal vehicles are a major driver of climate change impacts. Tailpipe emissions account for 70 percent of the carbon pollution from the transportation sector, leading to increased flooding and extreme heat, driving up utility bills, and damaging homes and businesses. 

This action will also negatively impact Virginians’ health, disproportionately harming low-income communities and communities of color. According to the American Lung Association, widespread transition to electric vehicles could save Virginians $29.7 billion in healthcare costs, prevent 2,700 premature deaths, and avoid 70,900 asthma attacks.

Virginia was one of a number of Bay states that followed or planned to adopt the Clean Cars program, including standards for emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) and zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) sales. Legislation passed in 2021 directs Virginia’s Air Pollution Control Board to adopt the clean car standards and subsequent updates to the program. The move required a gradual shift to electric vehicles.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation Virginia Staff Attorney Patrick Fanning issued the following statement: 

“Virginia chose to adopt more protective vehicle standards because the Commonwealth chose to be a leader in the fight against transportation emissions that damage Virginians’ health, pollute critical waterways, and contribute to climate change. Virginia was one of multiple Bay states that opted into these standards, recognizing their essential benefit in the shared goal of restoring the Chesapeake Bay and building healthier and more sustainable communities. Governor Youngkin’s decision sends the state in the wrong direction when it has never been more urgent to address this major driver of environmental and health problems in the Commonwealth.” 

“The impacts of climate change to communities in the Bay watershed are not going away. In just this past year, we’ve seen multiple floods and more frequent, intense storms damage homes and businesses. Families are increasingly burdened by hospital bills. Tailpipe emissions remain a significant contributor to these detrimental impacts. Communities are calling for greater protection, not removal of an important shield in the fight against climate change, environmental degradation, and rising health care costs.”

“The Governor’s action relies on an Attorney General’s Opinion that misinterprets the law and undermines the clear intent of the General Assembly to require the Air Pollution Control Board to not only adopt clean car standards but also to periodically update them to ensure continued progress toward transitioning Virginia to a cleaner vehicle fleet.” 


Vanessa Remmers

Virginia Communications & Media Relations Manager, CBF

[email protected]

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