White House kills another top Biden nominee amid mounting opposition

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The White House unexpectedly withdrew President Biden’s nomination of Ann Carlson to lead a Department of Transportation safety subagency late on Tuesday.

In a surprise release, the White House said it had informed the Senate that Carlson’s nomination had been withdrawn. Biden nominated Carlson in February to be the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the nomination had been transmitted to the Senate Commerce Committee a month later.

The nomination withdrawal represents the third to die after being sent to the Senate Commerce Committee — Gigi Sohn, Biden’s nomination for the Federal Communications Commission, and Phillip Washington, Biden’s pick to lead the Federal Aviation Administration were both recently withdrawn. Committee Ranking Member Ted Cruz, R-Texas, had led opposition to all three nominees.

‘Based on your record, we are deeply concerned that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will follow the EPA’s lead and propose similarly radical vehicle fuel economy standards that run contrary to the law, diminish vehicle choice, impose higher costs on American families, and undermine our national and energy security all while benefitting China,’ Cruz and every other Commerce Committee Republican wrote in a letter to Carlson on May 1.

In January 2021, the Biden-Harris transition team hired Carlson, then an environmental law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), to serve as NHTSA’s chief counsel. While the position didn’t require Senate confirmation, Carlson has overseen key agency initiatives like the modification of fuel economy standards and has served as acting administrator since September.

According to emails reviewed in April by Fox News Digital, Carlson told her colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles, that 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 on 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 as ‘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.

As a result of the emails and other comments Carlson had previously made, numerous stakeholders had called for Senate Commerce Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., to reject Carlson’s nomination over her past climate activism.

Earlier this month, 43 influential oil and gas industry groups including the Western Energy Alliance, American Petroleum Institute and National Ocean Industries Association called on Cantwell and Cruz to block Carlson’s nomination. 

And on Tuesday, the American Farm Bureau, National Corn Growers Association and several other major agriculture groups similarly announced they opposed her nomination.

‘Regulations that impose an aggressive, unrealistic EV mandate are unworkable for farmers and ranchers. When given the choice most farmers and ranchers do not purchase EVs, and with good reason,’ the agriculture groups wrote in a letter to Cantwell and Cruz obtained by Fox News Digital.

‘NHTSA needs a leader who will focus on road safety and sensible vehicle standards, not imposing regulations that will cause substantial and widespread harm to American farmers and
ranchers. We urge the Senate to reject her nomination.’

In addition, 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.

The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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