NHTSA Acting Chief Heidi King to Roll on Down the Highway
The Senate won’t have to worry about approving the nomination of Heidi King as National Highway Traffic Safety Administration boss, as King won’t be there to fill the seat. The acting administrator of the NHTSA announced her resignation late Monday.
King, who joined the road safety agency as a deputy administrator in 2017, will leave her office at the end of the month. While President Donald Trump nominated King for the administrator job in 2018, the nomination never went to a full Senate vote — though she was twice approved by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Now, someone else will have to tackle the job of rolling back fuel efficiency standards.
That person has already been found, at least on a temporary basis. As reported by The Washington Post, after August 31st the acting administrator post will be occupied by James Owens, the Transportation Department’s deputy general counsel. As well, general counsel Steven Bradbury will don the acting deputy secretary hat.
Both men were involved in the complex, drawn-out process of unraveling Obama-era efficiency rules. The Trump administration insists that lofty MPG standards pose a threat to the American auto industry, with NHTSA officials arguing that a markup in cost born of new, fuel-saving technologies will prevent citizens from getting into newer, safer vehicles.
Currently, the administration finds itself in a battle with the state of California, which sets its own efficiency rules. Automakers are caught in the middle, desperate to avoid a scenario where one market (the U.S.) contains two standards for efficiency. In the hopes of sidestepping this product planning/regulatory nightmare, major auto organizations recently pressed the federal government to adopt a single standard.
Earlier this month, the NHTSA formally unveiled its proposal to freeze fuel efficiency standards at 2020 levels. Titled “Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Years 2021-2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks,” the proposal would revoke California’s ability to set its own MPG mandate. Current standards call for a fleetwide fuel-efficiency average of 46.7 miles per gallon by 2026.
Under the proposed rules, fleetwide efficiency would remain at 37 mpg for a period of five years.
“If adopted, the proposed rule’s preferred alternative would save more than $500 billion in societal costs and reduce highway fatalities by 12,700 lives (over the lifetimes of vehicles through MY 2029),” the agency stated.
A 60-day comment period kicked off after the proposal’s release, during which we can expect to hear plenty of heated arguments in favor of the Obama-era rules from environmental groups and the state of California.
Stuart on Aug 13, 2019
Everyone here is blaming CARB (CA Air Resources Board) for their regulations requiring pollution controls, reformulated gasoline, and now mileage standards. But CARB is just trying to satisfy the Federal Clean Air Act. If CA fails to clean up its (currently unacceptable) air, EPA is supposed to step in and punish CA for failing to protect the public health. (In all honesty, I'm not certain the Trump EPA would actually enforce the Act, but the Obama EPA did, and I'm certain any Dem-controlled EPA would.) If the B&B can explain how CA can clear its air without mileage standards, millions of Californians would be very interested to hear. Including me.
Jeff S on Aug 14, 2019
@DenverMike--Some good points. Many will drive more with more efficient vehicles and declining fuel prices. Also what about older vehicles that are not properly maintained. There can be strict standards for newer vehicles making them more expensive and still have many older vehicles that are not maintained contributing significantly to pollution. Agree also that there is only so much you can do with an ICE with diminishing returns for any incremental improvements. Seems that just more regulations and fines are not the answer without a comprehensive plan to actually ensure that the environment is improved and keep vehicles affordable for most.
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