From Congress to climate activists, everyone is mad at the Postal Service's plan to buy a bunch of gas-powered mail trucks. Now, the anger has manifested itself in a legal challenge: A host of environmental activist groups and 16 states are suing the agency for not electrifying its fleet.
Groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club filed lawsuits in California and New York on Thursday challenging USPS's decision to replace its current trucks with nearly 150,000 gas-powered new ones. The lawsuit alleges that the USPS sidestepped necessary environmental reviews that needed to be done before making the decision, and violated the National Environmental Policy Act by releasing a draft environmental impact statement for its purchasing plan six months after it signed a deal with Oshkosh Defense to buy the trucks.
The USPS committed to purchasing 165,000 delivery vehicles from Oshkosh, with 90% being gas-powered trucks and 10% being electric vehicles. The gas-powered vehicles get slightly better mileage than their predecessors: 14.7 miles per gallon without air conditioning compared to 8.2 in the old vehicles. But with AC, gas mileage drops to 8.6 miles in the new vehicles.
It's not exactly a great choice, especially when President Joe Biden has said the federal government will pull all the levers at its disposal to kickstart a climate revolution. The USPS fleet is a major one to tug on given that the investment in EVs would also mean building out charging infrastructure, including some available to average Americans. Electrifying the fleet would also reduce air pollution, a nice add-on bonus.
“The purpose of environmental review is to inform the Postal Service’s decision, not rubberstamp a plan it had already made,” Scott Hochberg, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “Postal delivery trucks visit almost every neighborhood in the United States daily. It’s backward and bewildering that the USPS would show such disregard for climate and public health with its decision.”
The agency has been stubborn about electrifying its fleet due to “organizational and financial constraints," despite the fact that switching to EVs is financially (and environmentally) a sound idea. The lawsuit was no surprise: Due to USPS's refusal to budge, experts that attended a recent House Oversight Committee hearing about the USPS’ fleet expected it, and so here we are.
“The Postal Service conducted a robust and thorough review and fully complied with all of our obligations under (the National Environmental Policy Act),” USPS spokesperson Kim Frum told the Associated Press in a statement.