Pa., N.J., and Del. among 16 states suing USPS over lack of electric vehicles

“This isn’t a small endeavor the Postal Service is setting out on,” said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “They’re working to replace the largest civilian fleet in the world. The scope of this is massive and will undeniably have a lasting impact on our environment. Which makes the fact that the process was hastily and sloppily done all the worse.”

Shapiro says the Postal Service failed in its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to consider the air quality, environmental justice or climate impacts of the purchase plan.

All three lawsuits say the Postal Service violated NEPA by not initiating an EIS until after it contracted with Oshkosh Defense to build 165,000 new trucks in Feb. 2021.

“This is a highly unusual move,” said Scott Hochberg, staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. “The purpose of the environmental review is to inform the Postal Service’s decision not to rubber stamp a plan it already made.”

The center filed a lawsuit in conjunction with the Sierra Club and CleanAir Now, an environmental group based in Kansas, asking a judge to halt any payments until a new EIS is completed.

Hochberg says it also violated NEPA by failing to consider alternatives to purchasing 100% EVs.

“In the EIS, USPS said that 5% of its routes were not suitable for EVs because of length or other considerations, but it never analyzed a 95% EV alternative,” said Hochberg.  “At the very least, even assuming USPS is right in its assumptions, 95% should be EVs.”

The lawsuits detail flawed analysis within the EIS, including overestimating the cost of electric batteries while underestimating the future cost of gasoline. The Postal Service assumed a gallon of gas would cost about $2.50 twenty years from now, about half of today’s price.

A ‘seriously deficient’ Environmental Impact Statement

Both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Council on Environmental Quality issued critical comments on the EIS. The EPA called it “seriously deficient.”

Speaking to the House Oversight and Reform Committee at a hearing in April, Jill Namaane, acting director of the physical infrastructure team for the Government Accountability Office, said the Postal Service also underestimated the savings from reduced greenhouse gas emissions and overestimated the costs of maintenance on electric vehicles.

“Our interviews with private delivery companies and Postal Service documents that show electric vehicles are expected to be less expensive to maintain,” she said.

At the same hearing, Victoria Stephens, executive director of the Postal Service Next Generation Delivery Vehicle Program, defended the plan, saying the costs would be too high to commit to more EVs. Stephens told the committee it looked at more than 200,000 carrier routes, assessed fuel and maintenance costs, as well as the cost to purchase EVs and build the charging stations.

“We found that the benefits are not enough to overcome the higher costs over the 20-year life of the vehicle,” she said.

A Postal Service spokesperson defended the work on the EIS, saying those criticizing the review ignore differences between the postal trucks and the delivery vans used by their competitors. “Our vehicles… travel short distances between hundreds of curbside boxes, and stop and start frequently throughout the day,” said Postal Service spokesperson Kim Frum in an email.

“Similarly, those criticisms turn a blind eye to our unique service requirements, which necessitate that we deliver mail to delivery boxes on posts,” she wrote. “These service requirements make commercial off-the-shelf vehicles particularly unsuitable for certain routes, and the right-hand drive purpose-built NGDVs we are acquiring defy cost and environmental comparison made by observers who are not fully informed.”

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