Energy & Environment — Youngkin’s move to block EV plant stirs controversy
The Virginia governor’s recent push to remove his state from consideration for construction of an EV battery plant is making waves. We’ll also look at House Republicans starting their climate oversight on the Biden administration.
♨️ Plus: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis weighs in on gas stoves.
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China, EVs and jobs complicate Virginia politics
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s (R) announcement removing his state from consideration for a Ford electric vehicle (EV) battery plant over connections to China has triggered a controversy, with critics saying he is picking fights as a prelude to a possible 2024 White House run.
Youngkin announced in January that he had withdrawn Virginia from the selection process for the plant. A Virginia facility would have been located in Pittsylvania County near the North Carolina state line.
The governor cited the involvement of Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. (CATL), a Chinese battery manufacturer that would have operated the facility as a joint venture with Ford.
The planned joint venture would be operated by CATL but owned by Ford, which could have made the plant eligible for subsidies under the Inflation Reduction Act.
The broader political backdrop: Youngkin is seen as a rising GOP star who could be a dark-horse candidate for president in 2024 or a vice presidential candidate. He just won Virginia’s governorship in 2021 but is term-limited and cannot run for a second consecutive term in 2025.
Democrats have blasted Youngkin’s announcement and accused him of putting his presidential hopes ahead of the state.
“The governor chose to make a splash and on his own disrespect[ed] the people of Southside Virginia by not letting them know that he was going to turn down 2,500 jobs and a $5 billion investment in a region of the commonwealth that has been suffering,” Virginia state House Minority Leader Don Scott (D) told The Hill in an interview. “We believe that he put his political and presidential aspirations before the people of Virginia who elected him.”
The governor’s response: “Governor Youngkin has a history of standing up to China and was thanked by President Trump for his support in holding China accountable for its unfair trade practices and malign influence,” Youngkin’s spokesperson Macaulay Porter told The Hill in an email. “Since day one, the governor has utilized his business experience to take on China, and ensure taxpayer dollars in Virginia don’t enrich the Chinese Communist Party.”
What about EVs:
As demand has built for electric vehicles in recent years, Republican governors have often been happy to tout their economic benefits.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) recently directed a task force to identify where the state should expand charging stations, while Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) touted investments in the state by Rivian and Hyundai last fall in his successful reelection campaign.
Ultimately, Keith Naughton, a Republican political consultant who co-founded the firm Silent Majority Strategies, said taking a broader anti-EV line is likely less salient in national politics than a hawkish stance on China.
Read more about the controversy here.
KERRYING ON WITH OVERSIGHT
House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) has requested information from U.S. climate envoy John Kerry on the details of Kerry’s international negotiations for the Biden administration, particularly with Chinese officials.
In a Thursday letter, Comer said Kerry has thus far not responded to inquiries from the Republicans on the committee regarding the nature of his work in the non-Senate-confirmed position.
Comer’s letter requests internal communications on the budget for Kerry’s position since he assumed the role in 2021, as well as from people present for those discussions, those employed by his office and documents pertaining to Kerry’s travel in the role.
Read more about the request here.
DeSantis proposes tax exemption for gas stoves
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is keeping rhetoric surrounding gas stoves on high, proposing a sales tax exemption for the appliances.
In a new statewide budget proposal, DeSantis, who is widely seen as a potential GOP presidential contender, called for a permanent sales tax exemption for gas stoves.
“They want your gas stove, and we’re not going to let that happen,” the governor said on Wednesday.
After a federal regulator floated the idea of a gas ban or regulations, Republicans embraced the gas stoves issue as part of a larger culture war narrative.
In Florida, gas stoves are not particularly prevalent. Just 8 percent of households use natural gas cooking appliances, while 92 percent use electric, according to a federal survey.
DeSantis acknowledged in his press conference that many people in the state use electric appliances, but said defending gas stoves was a matter of “principle.”
Though an outright federal ban on the appliances is unlikely, the Consumer Product Safety Commission may try put some regulations on the stoves that stop short of banning them amid concerns about their health impacts.
Read more about the move here.
GOP senators challenge Biden water protection rule
Senate Republicans are attempting to repeal the Biden administration’s water regulations, though their effort faces an uphill battle.
Republicans, led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), introduced a resolution on Thursday that would ax the rule.
The Biden administration recently put forward regulations on the country’s waters that are likely to be a middle ground between regulations under the Trump and Obama administrations.
The regulations define which waters get federal protections. Protected waters would require businesses to obtain a permit for activities like construction that could damage water quality, while unprotected waters do not.
VIRTUAL EVENT INVITE
Charging Ahead: EV/AV Summit; Wednesday, Feb. 8 at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT
Reps. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) and Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), DoE’s Michael Berube, Auto Drive America’s Jennifer Safavian, ChargePoint’s Pasquale Romano and more join The Hill’s second annual EV/AV summit to explore the barriers to EV adoption, the future of autonomous vehicles and the critical infrastructure needed to make them both a reality. RSVP to save your spot.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Nebraskans Are Sitting on Strategic Metals. Is Mining a Patriotic Duty? (The New York Times)
Environmental advocates push feds to investigate Texas’ enforcement of water quality (The Texas Tribune)
Long-term exposure to pollution linked to depression, study finds (The Washington Post)
A 385% Gas-Bill Jump Stuns Californians Facing Cold, Wet Winter (Bloomberg)
MORE FROM THE HILL
Living near a ‘food swamp’ could raise stroke risk in adults 50 and older: research
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