The United States Post Office’s plan to replace its aging delivery vehicles has been heavily criticized by the Environmental Protection Agency and the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The letters, first published by The Washington Post on Tuesday, excoriate the decision to award a $482 million contract to Oshkosh Defense without properly examining the environmental impact, as required by law.
Specifically, the EPA says that the USPS’s required environmental impact report “does not disclose essential information underlying the key analysis of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), underestimates greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, fails to consider more environmentally protective feasible alternatives, and inadequately considers impacts on communities with environmental justice concerns.”
Or, as the Chair of the CEQ wrote in a letter to Postmaster Louis DeJoy, his “agency committed to walk down a path before looking to see where the path was leading,” in contravention of longstanding practices and laws.
When the USPS first announced the contract with Oshkosh in February 2021, it said the plan was to purchase between 50,000 and 160,000 Next Generation Delivery Vehicles. These, we were told, would be a mixed fleet. Some battery-electric vehicles, others using “fuel-efficient internal combustion engines” with an ability to be converted at a later date, “to keep pace with advances in electric vehicle technology,” it said.
Within a few hours, expectations were significantly downgraded with the clarification that only 10 percent of the planned NGDVs would be electric, but the EPA says things are even worse than that. Oshkosh’s proposed vehicle will only average 8.6 mpg (27.35 L/100 km) according to the EPA, a barely noticeable improvement on the current Grumman-made LLV trucks, which average 8.2 mpg (28.68 L/100 km). And there is no plan to convert any internal combustion-engined NGDVs to battery electric.
And it’s not like the USPS tried very hard to find alternatives. The EPA letter states that the “Postal Service chose not to consider in detail even a single feasible alternative to its proposal that would be more environmentally protective, evaluating only alternatives the Postal Service itself considered to be infeasible (e.g., 100 percent BEVs given longer rural routes).”
The EPA notes in its letter that recent federal court decisions have not been in the government’s favor regarding agencies ignoring required environmental protections and tells the USPS that it should not proceed to a decision on the NGDVs. It also calls for public comment on a new environmental impact statement and requests a public hearing.