White House, Texas Lawmakers Respond to Coalition Letter Opposing NHTSA Nominee

Last week, Fox News reported that a “large coalition of 43 of the most influential oil and gas industry trade groups,” led by the Western Energy Alliance, published a letter opposing the nomination of Ann Carlson to lead the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the sub-agency of the Department of Transportation responsible for highway safety.

The coalition – which included the Independent Petroleum Association of America, American Petroleum Institute, National Ocean Industries Association, and others – wrote:

“We strongly oppose President Biden’s nomination of Ann Carlson as Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

“Her multiple public statements reveal a clear agenda to go beyond NHTSA’s congressionally mandated mission on vehicle performance and safety standards and turn it into a climate change enforcement body. We are also concerned by Carlson’s lack of transparency about her work promoting spurious climate change litigation.”

Opposition to NHTSA Acting Administrator Ann Carlson’s nomination to officially head the agency has been brewing for months. When Carlson’s nomination was announced, Fox News exposed Carlson’s involvement in climate litigation and her plans to turn NHTSA into a climate agency. And earlier this month, The Hill reported that all thirteen Republicans on the Senate Commerce Committee signed a letter expressing serious concerns about Carlson’s track record:

“As [NHTSA] chief counsel, you had a responsibility to ensure that NHTSA’s proposed regulations complied with the law. However, you instead took actions that were consistent with your long career as an environmentalist without traffic safety experience.

“In fact, as you told colleagues, the Biden administration recruited you to join NHTSA explicitly to advance its ‘whole of government’ climate change agenda.” (Emphasis added)

To counter the growing opposition to Carlson’s nomination, the Biden Department of Transportation told E&E News that Carlson’s priorities for NHTSA include making energy more affordable for Americans, despite Carlson’s explicit, stated support for energy efficiency measures that would “raise energy prices” for consumers.

The White House statement to E&E made the unusual claim that Carlson – a proponent of the polices that have made the California so dependent on foreign oil and natural gas – actually plans to use her NHTSA post to reduce dependence on foreign oil:

“‘As NHTSA considers updates to CAFE, this Administration and Ann Carlson remain focused on delivering Americans more affordable prices at the pump and reduced dependence on foreign oil,’ the agency wrote in a statement, urging the Senate to confirm Carlson.”

The Western Energy Alliance letter and a legal challenge to NHTSA and EPA’s agenda led by Texas Independent Producers & Royalty Owners Association also led to comments from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), the Ranking Member on the Commerce Committee, and Rep. August Pfluger (R-TX).

This week, the Odessa American reported on the Texas lawmakers’ concerns about Carlson’s nomination:

“‘Whether it is your car or your gas stove, her nomination is a signal from the Biden administration that more unfeasible green energy mandates are on the way whether consumers can afford the consequences or not,’ Cruz said.

“Pfluger told the Odessa American that Congress had not authorized the NHTSA to address climate change.”

Bottom Line: While highway fatalities remain a “national crisis,” according to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the Biden administration has nominated an activist to lead NHTSA specifically because of her plans to promote a “whole of government” approach to addressing climate change, regardless of economic tradeoffs or statutory constraints.

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