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).