Sixteen states as well as several prominent climate activists sued the United States Postal Service this week over its plan to purchase 148,000 gas-guzzling delivery trucks over the next decade, alleging the agency failed to consider the environmental impact of its decision.
The states accuse the USPS of only performing a “cursory environmental review to justify the decision to replace 90 percent of its delivery fleet with fossil fuel-powered, internal combustion engine vehicles, despite other available, environmentally preferable alternatives,” the lawsuit reads. “In doing so, the Postal Service failed to comply with even the most basic requirements of [National Environmental Policy Act].”
The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California by the state attorneys general of California, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington state, Washington, DC, and the city of New York.
USPS, under the leadership of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, has been at odds with environmentalists over the need to electrify the agency’s fleet. Following a years-long bidding process, the USPS unveiled its next-generation mail truck in February 2021, to be made by Oshkosh Defense. They will replace the current mail trucks that have been in service for more than two decades, which were built by another defense contractor, Grumman.
Originally, the postal service said it would purchase 165,000 next-generation mail trucks, only 10 percent of which would be battery-electric vehicles. President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats urged the agency to increase the number of EVs, but USPS determined there was no legal reason to change its plans. But, earlier this year, the service said it would increase its initial order of EVs from 5,000 to 10,019, determining it “makes good sense from an operational and financial perspective.”
“Cursory environmental review”
Still, the states accuse the USPS of relying on faulty judgment and an incomplete process to acquire gas-powered vehicles that only get 8.6 miles per gallon while using air conditioning compared to an industry average of between 12 and 14mpg for fleet vehicles.
In response, the USPS defended its practices, noting that it remains open to increasing its order for more electric vehicles in the future should additional funding become available to do so.
“The Postal Service is fully committed to the inclusion of electric vehicles as a significant part of our delivery fleet even though the investment will cost more than an internal combustion engine vehicle,” a spokesperson said in an email. “That said, as we have stated repeatedly, we must make fiscally prudent decisions in the needed introduction of a new vehicle fleet.”
Congress recently approved a $50 billion rescue package for USPS, which has lost more than $90 billion since 2007. DeJoy has proposed slashing billions of dollars in funding and slower first-class mail deliveries as new standards.