December 6, 2022

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USPS finalizes plan to buy mostly gas-powered delivery fleet, defying Biden and EPA concerns about climate and safety

USPS finalizes plan to buy mostly gas-powered delivery fleet, defying Biden and EPA concerns about climate and safety

Vicki Arroyo, associate director for policy at the Environmental Protection Agency, issued a statement calling the Postal Service’s decision a “very missed opportunity.”

“The purchase of tens of thousands of gasoline-powered delivery trucks traps the USPS in further dependence on oil, air pollution, and climate impacts for decades to come, and harms the long-term prospects of our country’s vital mail provider,” Arroyo said.

President Biden has pledged to move the federal fleet into a clean authority, and aside from the military, the Postal Service has more vehicles than any other government agency. It accounts for nearly a third of federally owned cars and trucks, and environmental experts and the auto industry argue that the agency’s deliveries and stops to 161 million addresses six days a week were an ideal use case for electric vehicles.

Federal climate officials said the Postal Service has greatly underestimated the emissions of its proposed fleet of “next generation delivery vehicles,” or NGDVs, and accused the Postal Agency of manipulating the calculations of its environmental studies to justify such a massive purchase of internal combustion engine trucks.

But DeJoy, a Trump administration affiliate, called his agency’s investment in green transportation “ambitious,” even as environmental groups and even other postal leaders privately questioned it. When DeJoy repeated the characterization at a Postal Services Board public meeting earlier in February, his remarks were met with chuckles from the audience.

Environmental advocates attacked the agency’s decision, saying it would lock in decades of global warming emissions and make air pollution worse. Postal Service plans call for the new trucks, built by Oshkosh Defense, to hit the streets in 2023 and remain in service for at least 20 years.

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“Currently, regardless of the climate benefits and air quality benefits, the transition to electric vehicles is a smarter business decision,” Catherine Garcia, Sierra Club’s Clean Mobility Campaign Manager, said in an interview. “Given our climate commitments, given our public health commitments, it is totally unacceptable for the USPS to cling to a fossil fuel fleet overwhelmingly.”

“DeJoy’s plans for the postal fleet will drag us decades back with a truck model that gets a laughable fuel economy. We may also be delivering mail with Hummers,” said Adrian Martinez, an attorney with the environmental law firm Earth Justice. .

DeJoy said in a statement that the agency is open to pursuing more electric vehicles if “additional funding is available — either from internal sources or from Congress.” But he added that the agency had “waited long enough” for the new cars.

The White House and the Environmental Protection Agency asked the Postal Service to make an additional statement on the environmental impact of the new fleet and hold a public hearing on its procurement plan. The Postal Service denied those requests: Mark Gilfoyle, the agency’s vice president of supply management, said they “won’t add value” to the Postal Service’s analysis.

Now that the Postal Service has terminated its agreement with Oshkosh, environmentalists are expected to file lawsuits to challenge it on the grounds that the agency’s environmental review failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act. They will likely base their case on a set of problems that Biden administration officials previously identified with the agency’s technical analysis.

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The Environmental Protection Agency and top White House environmental regulators accused the Postal Agency of signing a contract for the new trucks and then using a faulty study to support its decision. Officials said the resulting analysis, which had to be written before the deal was concluded, relied on incorrect calculations of greenhouse gas emissions in new trucks, the cost of fuel and the estimated cost of buying a larger share of electric vehicles.

EPA officials have also criticized the Postal Agency for basing its analysis of electric vehicles on existing charging infrastructure, which is still in its infancy, and for considering only switching to an all-electric fleet or switching over only 10 percent of its delivery vehicles. Analysis of the Postal Service has shown that about 95 percent of postal companies’ routes can be electric.

Regulators and activists have asked the agency to consider more alternatives, especially since the agency has said budget concerns are the main impediment to a cleaner fleet. Administration and legislators are studying Giving more funding to the Postal Service for the purchase of electric cars. Biden’s plan to build back better, for example, would save $6 billion for a fleet of 70 percent electric cars.

Critics say analyzing further procurement plans is important, because the environmental study is supposed to look beyond fleet emissions or the pollution they might cause. It should also look at how and where the compounds are deployed, said Sam Wilson, chief compounds analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

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“What would be sensible to do is to have a high-level scenario of 95 percent of battery electric vehicles, which is compatible [the Postal Service’s] Wilson said. “Even a 75 or 55 percent analysis would be reasonable.”