Just days after reports that Heidi King, acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, would be leaving the job, she announced Monday she would be stepping down Aug. 31.
King was nominated for the top job at the federal safety agency by the Trump administration, but she was not confirmed. She’ll be replaced as deputy administrator – and acting administrator – by James Owens. He is the agency’s deputy general counsel.
A long-time government official, King was largely for responsible for implementing President Donald Trump’s plan to rollback federal fuel economy and efficiency rules from those established by his predecessor, President Barack Obama, in the final days of his administration.
She subscribed to the idea that lowering the mandate would be good for automakers and, ultimately, good for consumers. King said that the tougher standards helped to drive up the cost of new vehicles. With lower prices for new vehicles achievable, owners of older vehicles would be more likely to trade in less efficient models for newer, more efficient vehicles.
The Trump administration said this summer it was issuing final rules to suspend the 2016 Obama administration regulation that more than doubled penalties for automakers failing to meet fuel efficiency requirements.
The final rule is expected to bar California – a move she favored despite being from California – from setting its own vehicle emissions rules.
She took over the day-to-day leadership of the agency when former Administrator Mark Rosekind resigned when the Trump administration took over. Prior to joining NHTSA, she held a variety of jobs at different government agencies.
King previously served as the chief economist for the House Energy and Commerce Committee and as a regulatory policy analyst at the White House Office of Management and Budget.
She also worked in the private sector for Telcordia Technologies, Pfizer Inc. and, most recently, General Electric Co., where she was global director of environmental health and safety risk from 2013 to 2016.
After earning a bachelor’s degree at the University of California, Irvine, she got a master’s in economics from the California Institute of Technology. She also worked as a California park ranger. Oddly, she is the only member of the Trump administration who helped to push the lower fuel efficiency standard to depart.
Bill Wehrum, who served as EPA air chief, abruptly announced his resignation in late June He had overseen EPA’s portion of the rollback, which involves weakening greenhouse gas emissions rules for cars and revoking California’s authority to set tougher tailpipe pollution limits than the federal government.
Jeffrey Rosen, deputy secretary at the Department of Transportation, left earlier this year to serve as the No. 2 official at the Justice Departmentj, where he and King were set up DOT’s portion of the rollback, according to Greenwire.com.