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USPS sued by states and environmental groups over purchase of 8.6 mpg trucks

A Postal Service delivery vehicle.
Enlarge / The USPS’s new mail truck.

United States Postal Service

The US Postal Service is facing lawsuits from 16 states and several environmental groups challenging its decision to buy tens of thousands of gasoline-powered delivery vehicles instead of electric vehicles.

As previously reported, the Environmental Protection Agency says the gas-powered trucks being ordered by the USPS “are expected to achieve only 8.6 miles per gallon (mpg), barely improving over the decades-old long-life vehicles that achieve 8.2 mpg.” The USPS countered that the vehicles get 14.7 mpg when air conditioning isn’t being used and that the trucks’ size will make it possible to deliver the same amount of mail in fewer trips.

The USPS plan is to buy 50,000 to 165,000 vehicles over 10 years. Of those, at least 10 percent are slated to be battery-electric vehicles (BEV). Amid controversy, the USPS last month said its initial order of 50,000 trucks for $2.98 billion would include over 10,000 BEVs for “specific delivery routes that present the best initial application for electric vehicles.”

A lawsuit filed by California and 15 other states on Thursday said the USPS failed “to follow a process mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA),” continuing:

Instead, the Postal Service first chose a manufacturer with minimal experience in producing electric vehicles, signed a contract, and made a substantial down payment for new vehicles. Only then did the Postal Service publish 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. In doing so, the Postal Service failed to comply with even the most basic requirements of NEPA.

States seek injunction

The lawsuit seeks an injunction forcing the USPS to stop the vehicle purchases “until it has complied with NEPA.” It was filed against the USPS and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who was appointed by the USPS Board of Governors in 2020 under then-President Donald Trump.

All 16 states involved in the lawsuit have Democratic attorneys general. They allege that the USPS “violated well-established legal precedent prohibiting ‘an irreversible and irretrievable commitment of resources’ before completing the NEPA process by signing contracts with a defense company (Oshkosh Defense, LLC) to procure vehicles six months before even releasing its draft environmental review and a year prior to issuing the Final Environmental Impact Statement (‘Final EIS’) and Record of Decision.”

The states also claim the USPS failed to consider and evaluate reasonable alternatives. “Specifically, the Postal Service did not properly evaluate several environmental impacts of its action, including air quality, environmental justice, and climate harms, by simply assuming that any upgrade to its vehicle fleet would have positive impacts on the environment,” the complaint said.

States also alleged the USPS “failed to ensure the scientific integrity of its analysis by relying on unfounded assumptions regarding the costs and performance of electric vehicles, infrastructure, and gas prices, and refusing to identify the source of the data relied upon in the Final EIS.”

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