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A top federal official who helped craft regulations intended to advance electric vehicle use in the future is leaving the Biden administration in an unexpected move, according to an internal agency memo obtained by Fox News Digital.
Anne Carlson — who currently serves as Acting Administrator of the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) — will step down from her position on December 26, 2023, leaving the agency entirely at the end of January. Patrick Lally, who heads the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Office of Government Affairs, made the announcement in a memo distributed to agency employees late Friday.
“Anne has been a tremendous leader — and her time as acting NHTSA Administrator was time-limited under the Vacancies Reform Act,” a Department of Transportation spokesperson told Fox News Digital in a statement. “She will return to her previous role as Senior Advisor and Chief Advisor for one month to assist with the transition.”
“Under her leadership, NHTSA has strengthened child seat standards, moved to require automatic emergency braking on light- and heavy-duty vehicles, oversaw major recalls, and held registered importers and those who commit odometer fraud accountable for their misdeeds, following horrific increases in previous years,” he continued. Statement: “For six consecutive quarters, road deaths have declined.”
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However, Carlson has drawn strong opposition from Republicans because of her past climate activism, support for regulations targeting gas-powered vehicles, and how she has continued to lead NHTSA in a representative role even after Senate confirmation for the position failed permanently.
In January 2021, the Biden-Harris transition team appointed Carlson, then a professor of environmental law at the University of California, to serve as chief advisor to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Although the position did not require Senate confirmation, Carlson oversaw key agency initiatives in this role and began serving as acting administrator in September 2022.
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Then in February 2023, Biden has nominated Carlson to lead NHTSA permanently. In the months since, she has faced stiff opposition from Republicans on the Senate Commerce Committee over her past work in the private sector advising plaintiffs on climate issues and comments she made via email about her role with the Biden administration.
Then her nomination was abruptly withdrawn in May, but she remained the acting director, angering Republicans and energy advocates. After withdrawing her nomination, Carlson instituted new fuel economy regulations designed to incentivize more electric vehicle purchases.
“As Senate Republicans have repeatedly pointed out, Anne Carlson was serving as an acting official in violation of the law,” Commerce Committee member Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told Fox News Digital. “Her attempts to hijack this safety agency by rewriting automobile fuel economy standards into an actual mandate for unpopular electric vehicles should not be the result of her illegal appointment.”
He continued: “I hope that President Biden will nominate someone with the required safety experience to lead the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, not another extremist Green New Deal activist.”
In addition to leading opposition to Carlson’s nomination to be NHTSA administrator, Cruz introduced a resolution alongside Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., in September that would have effectively defunded Carlson.
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Cruz argued that Carlson retaining her position as acting administrator violates the federal vacancy reform law that prohibits “any person nominated to fill any vacancy from performing the duties of that office in an acting capacity.” He pointed to that provision and the fact that Carlson had not served as senior assistant to the former NHTSA chief for more than 90 days before his resignation, which barred her from her current position.
“President Biden’s illegal appointment of Anne Carlson, who was effectively rejected by the Senate over concerns about her extremist agenda and extremist record, will only lead to more mandates, higher costs to families and a less vibrant economy,” Cruz said in September.