A coalition of green groups sued the U.S. Postal Service on Thursday over Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's plan to buy a new delivery fleet composed almost entirely of gas-powered trucks, a move that climate advocates say was justified by a "deeply flawed" environmental impact analysis.
"Ninety percent of the new trucks would be combustion vehicles with a worse fuel economy than a gas-powered Ford F-150."
The Postal Service's analysis was so flawed, according to the new lawsuit, that it runs afoul of the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires federal agencies to thoroughly assess the climate impacts of their policy decisions.
"The Postal Service's plan to purchase thousands of combustion mail trucks will not only deliver pollution to every neighborhood in America, it's also unlawful," said Adrian Martinez, a senior attorney with Earthjustice's Right to Zero campaign, said in a statement. "DeJoy's environmental process was so rickety and riddled with error that it failed to meet the basic standards of the National Environmental Policy Act."
"We're going to court to protect the millions of Americans breathing in neighborhoods overburdened with tailpipe pollution," Martinez added. "Mail delivery in this country should be electric for our health and for our future."
The USPS finalized plans to revamp its aging and downright dangerous vehicle fleet in February, prompting outrage from environmentalists and Democratic lawmakers who say DeJoy—a Trump megadonor—is flouting much-needed efforts to electrify federal vehicles. The Postal Service currently has more than 230,000 vehicles, one of the largest civilian fleets in the world.
Of the 165,000 new mail trucks the USPS is set to purchase from the Wisconsin-based Oshkosh Corporation, just 10% overall are expected to be electric.
"USPS has decided to keep polluting communities at a time when federal agencies should be leading the way on electrification."
While the percentage of electric trucks was higher in the Postal Service's first order under the new plan—out of the 50,000 trucks in the initial batch, just over 10,000 were electric—it's unclear whether that trend will continue.
In an interview with the Washington Post earlier this month, DeJoy—who has faced calls to resign over the vehicle contract as well as his slowdown of mail delivery—insisted that an all-electric fleet would be too costly, a narrative that critics have disputed by citing research showing 97% of USPS trucks can be replaced with electric vehicles at a lower total cost than comparable gas and diesel vehicles.
"The policy of electrifying the fleet of the nation is a mission that I will support," said DeJoy. "But I would be negligent to spend all my money on doing that."
House Democrats have urged the USPS inspector general to investigate the multibillion-dollar contract with Oshkosh, citing "significant concerns" about the agency's assessment of the agreement's environmental impact.
According to the climate organizations leading the new lawsuit, which was filed in the Northern District of California, the Postal Service's analysis "included estimates for battery costs that were unrealistically high, with evaluations of gas prices that were unreasonably low even before the recent spike in gas prices to a national average of over $4 per gallon."
"The Postal Service's analysis was deeply flawed right from the start: the agency signed a contract and spent millions of dollars on a new combustion fleet before it even began conducting an environmental analysis," said the green coalition, which includes Earthjustice, CleanAirNow KC, the Sierra Club, and the Center for Biological Diversity.
The groups added that the new model of gas-powered delivery trucks "gets a harrowing mileage of 8.6 mpg with the air conditioning on."
"Ninety percent of the new trucks would be combustion vehicles with a worse fuel economy than a gas-powered Ford F-150," they noted, "and worse mileage than the 1988 Grumman postal truck model when new."
Katherine García, director of the Sierra Club's Clean Transportation for All campaign, said in a statement Thursday that "instead of moving forward with common-sense and available technology to mitigate the climate crisis, clean up our air, and create good union jobs, USPS has decided to keep polluting communities at a time when federal agencies should be leading the way on electrification."
"It's an unacceptable decision," said García, "and we won't let it slide."