Head of the NHTSA to Resign Amid the Trump Administration's Push to Rollback Fuel Economy Standards

Head of the NHTSA to Resign Amid the Trump Administration's Push to Rollback Fuel Economy Standards

Author: Eric Walz   

The acting administrator of the National highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Heidi King will resign from her role on Aug 31, as the Trump administration looks to rollback fuel economy standards in the U.S.

The NHTSA, which is part of the Transportation Department (DOT), oversees auto safety recalls and fuel efficiency regulations.

Heidi King was nominated by Trump to head the agency on a permanent basis but was never actually confirmed by the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans. King was appointed as deputy NHTSA administrator in 2017.

King will be replaced as deputy administrator and acting head of the agency by James Owens, the department's deputy general counsel, the department said. Owens has been involved in the fuel efficiency regulatory effort as well. Owens joined the Department in January 2017, and served as the Department's Acting General Counsel between August and November 2017.

Reports of King's impending departure began surfacing last week, athough she denied she was leaving. In a social media post last week, King wrote, "How do you know when you are working too hard? When your vacation is reported as a career change!"

King was instrumental in the administration's initiative to draft new fuel efficiency rules through 2026. The rules were put in place by former President Barack Obama and called for a fleetwide fuel-efficiency average of 46.7 miles per gallon by 2026, compared with 37 mpg under the Trump administration's preferred option.

The Trump administration claims that Obama's fuel economy stands are too strict and unattainable by 2025, adding that relaxing the rules would save automakers billions in development costs. The administration also argued that the tougher Obama rules would make newer cars unaffordable.

The current administration also announced that its suspending regulations that would double fines for automakers that fail to meet U.S. fuel efficiency requirements.

King sided with the Trump administration in June, saying that the plan would "discourage consumers from replacing their older car with a newer car that is safer, cleaner and more fuel efficient."

NHTSA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week submitted the second part of the final regulation to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review. The final rule is expected to be finalized within months.

Last month, four of the world's biggest automakers, Ford, BMW, Volkswagen and Honda have rebuffed the fuel economy rollback and struck a deal with California to more closely adhere to the Obama era mandate of achieving 46.7 mpg by 2025. The original mandate preserved the legal authorities of the DOT, EPA and the state of California to set it own standards. 

The final rule however is expected to bar California, the nation's most populous state and a trend-setter on environmental protection initiatives, from establishing its own vehicle emissions rules. California also leads the U.S. in electric vehicle sales.

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley. Eric has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology. Outside of work, Eric likes to travel to new places, play guitar, and explore the outdoors.
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