Ann Carlson, President Biden’s former pick to lead the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), still runs the agency and shapes key policies despite failing the Senate confirmation process.
In May, the White House announced it had withdrawn Carlson’s nomination to serve as NHTSA’s administrator amid criticism from lawmakers and industry groups over her past climate activism. However, as of Tuesday, Carlson remains the agency’s acting administrator and last week helped roll out aggressive federal fuel efficiency standards automakers argued would cost more than $100 billion.
‘The new standards we’re proposing today would advance our energy security, reduce harmful emissions and save families and business owners money at the pump. That’s good news for everyone,’ Carlson said in a statement Friday as part of a Department of Transportation press release that identified her as NHTSA’s top official.
The so-called Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards require passenger cars and light trucks to improve fuel efficiency by 2% and 4%, respectively, beginning in 2027. By 2032, according to NHTSA, the average U.S. fleet fuel economy could reach 58 miles per gallon, up more than 100% compared to the current average.
NHTSA said the standards would curb carbon emissions by more than 900 million tons through 2050 and reduce oil dependence by lowering gasoline consumption by 88 billion gallons over that span.
Overall, the standards could increase car prices enough to make electric vehicles cost competitive with traditional gas-powered vehicles. The Biden administration has repeatedly aimed to push greater nationwide electric vehicle adoption even as they remain far more expensive than gas cars.
‘It is outrageous that despite the fact that the American people’s representatives in the Senate did not consent to Ann Carlson leading her agency, Biden is still keeping this radical in power,’ American Accountability Foundation President Tom Jones, a vocal opponent of Carlson’s nomination, told Fox News Digital Tuesday.
‘It appears that she intends to use that power to impose the most Draconian climate agenda ever, even though it is regular Americans who will end up paying the price.’
In January 2021, the Biden-Harris transition team hired Carlson, then an environmental law professor at UCLA, to serve as NHTSA’s chief counsel. While the position didn’t require Senate confirmation, Carlson oversaw key agency initiatives in that role and has served as acting administrator since September.
Biden nominated Carlson to lead NHTSA in February. In the months that followed, she faced heavy opposition for her past work in the private sector advising plaintiffs in climate litigation and comments she made via email about her role with the Biden administration.
According to the emails reviewed in April by Fox News Digital, Carlson told her colleagues at UCLA she had been selected to serve at NHTSA in a climate-focused role. She even said in one email that her selection was ‘evidence that the Biden Administration is truly committed to a ‘whole of government’ approach to addressing climate change.’
‘NHTSA has authority over fuel economy for cars and trucks and has been at the center of the standards to reduce [greenhouse gas emissions] from the transport sector,’ she wrote in one of the emails from Jan. 19, 2021. ‘I’m being appointed along with the deputy administrator as the first NHTSA appointees ever with serious climate expertise.’
NHTSA, though, states its mission is to ‘save lives, prevent injuries and reduce economic costs due to road traffic crashes, through education, research, safety standards and enforcement activity.’
The agency was established by Congress in 1970 to improve the safety of passenger cars amid a surge in traffic accidents and deaths.
In 2017 and 2018, Carlson helped coordinate high-profile climate nuisance lawsuits filed by a dark money-fueled law firm against fossil fuel companies. The firm, California-based Sher Edling, has filed more than a dozen such lawsuits on behalf of cities, counties and several states.
‘Ann Carlson’s withdrawal is a powerful blow to radical environmentalists who are attempting to enlist NHTSA into an outrageous attempt at banning gas-powered vehicles,’ Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who led GOP opposition to Carlson, said in May. ‘I am proud of our work at the Commerce Committee to stop another extremist nominee from imposing a climate-alarmist agenda on the American people.’
In May, 43 influential oil and gas industry groups, including the Western Energy Alliance, American Petroleum Institute and National Ocean Industries Association, called on Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Cruz to block Carlson’s nomination.
And the American Farm Bureau, National Corn Growers Association and several other major agriculture groups similarly announced their opposition to her nomination weeks later.
The White House and NHTSA didn’t respond to requests for comment.