Neither Snow, Nor Rain, Nor Heat, Nor...Gas-Powered Fleet

A mail truck drives down the street, releasing exhaust into a blue sky.

The U.S. Postal Ser­vice uses hun­dreds of thou­sands of aging vehi­cles to deliv­er mail. To keep the fleet func­tion­al, it recent­ly decid­ed to replace up to 165,000 of those vehi­cles with new ones (Wash­ing­ton Post). But, as sev­er­al recent law­suits point out, the agency is buy­ing new gas-fueled vehi­cles rather than ful­ly inves­ti­gat­ing options to elec­tri­fy the fleet. The law­suits allege that the agency broke the law because it invest­ed mon­ey even before con­duct­ing the required envi­ron­men­tal review. Then when USPS did do an envi­ron­men­tal review, it failed to ade­quate­ly con­sid­er envi­ron­men­tal jus­tice or cli­mate impacts and ignored the envi­ron­men­tal impacts of build­ing a whole new facil­i­ty to pro­duce the vehi­cles. Invest­ing in new gas-fueled vehi­cles also under­mines states work­ing to meet air pol­lu­tion reduc­tion tar­gets while ignor­ing the sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fits of fuel sav­ings that come with a more elec­tric fleet.

There are three law­suits: One filed by a coali­tion of states, co-led by Cal­i­for­nia AG Rob Bon­ta and New York AG Leti­tia James (mul­ti­state press release, mul­ti­state com­plaint). One filed by The Inter­na­tion­al Union, Unit­ed Auto­mo­bile, Aero­space and Agri­cul­tur­al Imple­ment Work­ers of Amer­i­ca (UAW) and Nat­ur­al Resources Defense Coun­cil (Inter­na­tion­al Union, NRDC, UAW com­plaint). And one filed by Earth­jus­tice on behalf of CleanAirNow, an envi­ron­men­tal jus­tice orga­ni­za­tion in the Mid­west, and oth­er envi­ron­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions (Earth­jus­tice com­plaint). They are pend­ing in courts in New York and Cal­i­for­nia. The agency’s actions have drawn con­gres­sion­al scruti­ny, too (Politi­co).

The U.S. Postal Ser­vice has been run by Louis DeJoy since May 2020. As he is appoint­ed by a Board of Gov­er­nors, he has some inde­pen­dence from the Pres­i­dent under the law, unlike with typ­i­cal exec­u­tive agen­cies where the heads are usu­al­ly replaced by a new admin­is­tra­tion. This isn’t the agency’s first brush with con­tro­ver­sy. In mid-2020, the agency adopt­ed sev­er­al poli­cies that delayed mail deliv­ery, mak­ing it more dif­fi­cult to vote by mail at the height of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic. In sev­er­al law­suits (see Richard­son v. Trump and this Vote For­ward v. DeJoy), courts ordered the USPS to fix those poli­cies. It will be inter­est­ing to see how this new suit sorts itself out (pun intended).