USPS sued by states for buying gasoline autos, allegedly violating environmental regulation

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U.S. Postal Service vehicles. (Unsplash Photo / Sam LaRussa)

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson and other AGs from around the country have filed a lawsuit against Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and the U.S. Postal Service for allegedly violating environmental regulations in their decision to replace up to 165,000 aging postal trucks primarily with gas-powered mail carriers.

“Postmaster DeJoy illegally leapt towards gas-powered vehicles without sufficiently considering alternatives. Postmaster DeJoy failed to uphold his responsibility to protect our shared environment,” said Ferguson in a release on Thursday announcing the suit.

DeJoy, a Trump administration appointee, is accused of violating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) during the purchase review process.

In February 2021, DeJoy selected Oshkosh Defense to build the vehicles. The Wisconsin-based company’s website says that the new USPS vehicles “can accommodate both internal combustion and battery-electric engines. Over the next ten years, we will build and deliver between 50,000 and 165,000 battery electric and low emission internal combustion engine vehicles with 2-wheel or 4-wheel drive, depending on the Postal Service’s requirements.”

USPS last month announced that about 10,000 of the initial 50,000 vehicles will be electric, doubling the number of EVs initially targeted in the $2.98 billion deal. The Postal Service’s fleet includes about 212,000 vehicles.

“Today’s order demonstrates, as we have said all along, that 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,” DeJoy said in the March announcement.

That wasn’t enough for critics of the deal.

“When USPS published its environmental review, it did not consider reasonable alternatives, like buying a majority of electric vehicles and opting for gas vehicles where electric vehicles were infeasible. The Postal Service also ignored key environmental impacts, like the effect of continued poor air quality in already-polluted communities. USPS also did not consider whether purchasing a majority of gas-powered vehicles was consistent with climate policies in states like Washington,” stated the release from Ferguson.

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Seattle-based Amazon has been more aggressive in its pursuit of electric vehicles for its own delivery fleet.

The company in January became the first commercial customer for the Ram ProMaster Battery Electric Vehicle. The vans are scheduled to start rolling out in 2023. The announcement didn’t provide specific numbers about the purchase, saying the deal would put “thousands of BEV ProMasters on the road every year.”

Amazon previously committed to buying 100,000 electric delivery vans from Rivian, with the first 10,000 potentially coming online this year. Amazon owns nearly 20% of American automaker Rivian.

Fifteen additional states have joined the suit against DeJoy and USPS, including Oregon and California as well as Washington, D.C. and New York City and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

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