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August 12, 2019 5:00 PM, EDT

Acting NHTSA Leader Heidi King to Resign Aug. 31

Heidi King, acting head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Heidi King, NHTSA's deputy administrator, was nominated to the top post earlier this year. (C-SPAN)

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Heidi King, acting head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, will step down from the agency at the end of the month, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced Aug. 12.

Her last day will be Aug. 31. James Owens, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s deputy general counsel, will succeed King. He will serve as acting administrator. The department did not comment about King’s departure.

Prior to DOT, Owens was at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, according to background information about him on the department’s website.

King, the agency’s deputy administrator, was nominated to the top post earlier this year. In April, the Senate Commerce Committee advanced her nomination by a 14-12 vote. Republicans voted to approve, with Democrats opposing her. Senate Republican leaders had yet to schedule a vote to consider her nomination.

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In an answer to a questionnaire, King told the committee if confirmed she would envision being “responsible for the efficient, compliant and accountable operation of NHTSA.”

“I am experienced leading a global team of professionals for GE Capital, interagency federal professionals as an OMB leader, and teams of emergency services personnel in public emergency services roles,” she added.

Responding directly to written questions from the panel about the agency’s resources for dealing with vehicle technologies, she noted, “NHTSA recognizes that the rapid pace of technological change requires the agency to adapt, and to that end, the agency is performing extensive research into the need to adjust current standards to recognize new vehicle safety technologies.”

The opposition to her nomination included Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey (D) who had repeatedly cited her stance on carbon emissions regulation.

“I’m very concerned that, if confirmed, Ms. King would not only fail to put the brakes on this administration’s rollback of these critical standards, but she will hit the gas heading in the wrong direction,” the senator said earlier this year.

Besides stints at Pfizer Inc. and General Electric, King was a regulatory analyst at the Office of Management and Budget and an economist on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

In other personnel matters, the department announced general counsel Steven Bradbury was named acting deputy secretary, and Senior Counselor for Regulatory Reform Christina Aizcorbe was named deputy general counsel.