Several states and environmental and labor groups have filed lawsuits against the USPS today. The lawsuits charge that the agency failed to do required environmental assessments before going through with their deal to spend billions on gas guzzlers to replace the aging postal service fleet.
Two lawsuits were filed today, one in the Northern District of California, another in the Southern District of New York. The first was filed by Earthjustice, the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club and CleanAirNow KC. The second was filed by NRDC and UAW. Another was filed yesterday by California Attorney General Rob Bonta representing a coalition of more than a dozen states and cities.
The USPS current plan will purchase up to 165,000 mostly-gas-powered Next Generation Delivery Vehicles (NGDVs) from Oshkosh Defense Corp. Originally the plan was for just 10% of these to be electric, though the USPS upped that percentage to 20% in their initial order of 50,000 vehicles. The gas-powered NGDVs will get as low as 8.6 miles per gallon during operation.
The lawsuits filed today rehash many of the recent arguments against this decision, primarily focusing on the USPS’ failure to do timely environmental assessments. They argue that not only was the initial environmental assessment undertaken after the contract was announced, but that the assessment was deficient in considering air quality and climate impacts of the plan and did not seriously consider other alternatives to the gas guzzlers the USPS decided on.
Per the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), signed in 1970, federal agencies must publish environmental impact statements (EIS) before any change in policy that is likely to have an environmental impact.
But USPS’ environmental assessment has been panned as insufficient not only by all the groups filing lawsuits today, but also the White House and EPA, which sent letters criticizing the plan (which also conflicts with President Biden’s order to convert the entire federal vehicle fleet to electric). Even the USPS watchdog group, the Office of the Inspector General, stated that the agency would benefit from adopting more electric vehicles than their current plan.
The full lawsuits lay out more of the groups’ reasoning about the insufficiencies of the USPS’ analysis, and in the end each one asks the court to stop the Post Office from making the purchase until a sufficient environmental assessment is done. Full copies of the lawsuits can be found at these links: Earthjustice/Center for Biological Diversity, NRDC/UAW, California et al.
While we figured this fight wasn’t over, the opposition to this plan is even stronger than we expected. There are a lot of heavy hitters involved in the lawsuits filed in the past 24 hours.
The NRDC in particular has a very high success rate in suing the government, particularly relating to policies enacted while trump occupied the White House. While this policy was undertaken more recently than that, the purchase is being led by corrupt postmaster Dejoy, who was appointed during that time frame.
Plus, of course, California and the more than a dozen states joining them are nothing to sneeze at. California recently beat the US government in a fight over auto emissions regulation, even though many (but not me) thought they would lose.
Beyond the NEPA issue, it just makes sense for postal vehicles to go electric. EVs are perfect for jobs with predictable routes, lots of stop-and-go, and high torque requirements due to heavy loads. Plus, given that these tailpipes are in our communities every day, the air quality benefits of reducing pollution right outside your home window are massive. Add to that the money- and labor-saving benefits of lower electricity prices and simpler maintenance and you’ve really got a no-brainer – delivery and municipal vehicles need to go electric.
EVs are also capable even in the most extreme conditions, as Svalbard, Norway recently found out by shifting their entire delivery fleet to all-electric trucks.
Of course, we all support all this legal action over 100,000-some gas powered trucks, thinking of how much damage they’ll do over the course of the next couple decades of their operation. And we’re right to want to clean up our communities and save our tax dollars by stopping this purchase of gas guzzlers. The USPS should be getting 90%+ EVs and <10% gas (for the few truly long or difficult rural routes which they must serve), not the other way around.
But the US auto market has on the order of 17 million sales per year, and the vast majority of those are gas-powered, and will also be polluting our communities and costing us more money and health costs for decades to come. Maybe it would be nice to see some legal action against that, too?
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