Activists push Louis DeJoy to hand over secret documents
Post Office Trucks (Shutterstock)

A pair of green groups on Thursday appealed the U.S. Postal Service's rejection of a Freedom of Information Act request seeking to uncover details about the mail agency's contract to purchase more than 160,000 new delivery trucks, 90% of which are expected to be gas-powered.

"As the USPS forges ahead with its ill-conceived and controversial decision to pollute communities across the nation instead of electrifying their delivery trucks, we demand to see the details surrounding the agency's decision," said Elena Saxonhouse, managing attorney with the Sierra Club, which joined Elders Climate Action in filing the administrative appeal.

"As USPS proceeds to implement the Oshkosh contract, it should not keep the proposal leading to that contract secret."

The groups are specifically pressing the Postal Service to release the proposal that Oshkosh Defense, a Wisconsin-based company, submitted before it won the lucrative 10-year deal to manufacture the new mail vehicles.

"The USPS must be more transparent about the Oshkosh proposal and contract," Saxonhouse said.

Spearheaded by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, the Postal Service's decision to replace its aging and increasingly hazardous delivery fleet with mostly gas-powered trucks sparked outrage and pushback from climate organizations, Democratic lawmakers, and the Biden administration.

Last month, green groups joined forces with 16 state attorneys general in filing a lawsuit that aims to halt the Postal Service's agreement with Oshkosh, contending that the environmental impact analysis underpinning the deal is so shoddy that it violates the National Environmental Policy Act.

With their filing on Thursday, Sierra Club and Elders Climate Action alleged that the USPS is "improperly withholding records" related to the Oshkosh contract, which is worth billions of dollars.

"As USPS proceeds to implement the Oshkosh contract over the objections of the White House and many others," the filing states, "it should not keep the proposal leading to that contract secret."

Sierra Club and Elders Climate Action filed their initial FOIA request for records surrounding the agreement more than a year ago.

"The Postal Service's pass to pollute is reprehensible, and the public outcry around it should be evidence enough," Katherine García, director of Sierra Club's Clean Transportation for All campaign, said in a statement Thursday. "The significance of the harm done to climate and public health by introducing a new fleet of gas-powered trucks for decades to come can't be overstated."

"We will use all lawful means necessary to stop this short-sighted decision," García vowed.

The House Oversight Committee, led by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), is also pushing the Postal Service to furnish more information about its vehicle purchase, which could have major implications for President Joe Biden's effort to electrify the federal fleet.

In a letter to DeJoy dated Wednesday, Maloney voiced concern that "the Postal Service relied on flawed assumptions to justify the purchase of gas-powered trucks while underestimating the cost savings and environmental benefits from electric vehicles."

Demanding more transparency from the agency, Maloney requested that the Postal Service turn over "all documents and communications, including all analyses, related to the determination of a planned 90/10 split of gas-powered vehicles to electric vehicles."

Earlier this week, the oversight panel approved legislation that would toss out the Postal Service's environmental impact review of the new vehicle agreement and force the agency to conduct a new assessment.

"The Oversight Committee strongly supports the purchase of electric vehicles for the Postal Service's fleet, which will position the Postal Service as an environmental leader," Maloney wrote in her letter Wednesday. "An all-electric Postal Service fleet would reduce costs, increase reliability, and improve the Postal Service's ability to efficiently deliver mail and packages."

"Electrifying the next generation of Postal Service vehicles," the New York Democrat added, "is also essential to achieving the nation's goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fighting climate change."