Ann Carlson returns to UCLA Law following a distinguished run as NHTSA head

February 27, 2024
Ann Carlson

UCLA School of Law professor Ann Carlson is back at the law school after she steered the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration through several impactful years.

Carlson, a founding director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at UCLA Law, took a leave of absence in 2021, at the outset of the Biden administration, to serve as NHTSA’s chief counsel. In 2022, she became acting administrator of the federal agency. Housed within the U.S. Department of Transportation, NHTSA has joint authority with the Environmental Protection Agency over car and truck greenhouse gas standards.

When Carlson departed NHTSA in January, she participated in an extensive Q&A with the Associated Press, surveying the landscape of transportation safety, particularly when it comes to autonomous vehicles. Her accomplishments included overseeing efforts to toughen fuel efficiency regulations and an investigation into Tesla’s autopilot.

Carlson is the Shirley Shapiro Professor of Environmental Law and a nationally renowned leader in legal scholarship, policy-relevant analysis and teaching on environmental issues, including groundbreaking work in air pollution law and policy. A frequent commentator in the national media, Carlson co-wrote with Dan Farber and William Boyd the top casebook Environmental Law (West, 2019) and co-edited with Dallas Burtraw the book Lessons from the Clean Air Act: Building Durability and Flexibility into U.S. Climate and Energy Policy (Cambridge University Press, 2019). She earned her B.A., magna cum laude, from UC Santa Barbara and J.D., magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School.

In 2017, Carlson was named the University of California’s Sustainability Champion. A beloved leader in the classroom, she has also received UCLA’s Distinguished Teaching Award with the Eby Award for the Art of Teaching and UCLA Law’s Rutter Award for Excellence in Teaching.

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