Lawsuit challenges US Postal Service plan to buy 150,000 gas-guzzling trucks

WASHINGTON—The Center for Biological Diversity, CleanAirNow, the Sierra Club and 16 states filed lawsuits in California federal court today challenging the U.S. Postal Service’s decision to replace its aging fleet with nearly 150,000 delivery trucks gasoline.

Last year, the Postal Service, under Trump-appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, finalized a contract to replace 165,000 aging postal trucks. He chose Oshkosh Defense, a company with no experience in producing electric vehicles, and ordered 90% gasoline-powered trucks and only 10% electric vehicles.

“Louis DeJoy’s gas-guzzling fleet guarantees decades of pollution with every postcard and every package, and we hope the court blocks it,” said Scott Hochberg, an attorney at the Center’s Climate Law Institute. “The entire federal government is racing to electrify, and the Postal Service cannot drive in the opposite direction.”

Current mail trucks, which are about 30 years old, get 8.2 miles per gallon. Proposed gas replacements get 14.7 mpg and just 8.6 mpg with air conditioning.

The lawsuit says the Postal Service circumvented mandatory environmental reviews that had to be completed before the agency made a purchasing decision. Instead, the Postal Service released a draft environmental impact statement for its plan six months after it had already signed the contract with Oshkosh, in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.

“The purpose of the environmental review is to inform the Postal Service’s decision, not to rubber-stamp a plan it had already developed,” Hochberg said. “Postal delivery trucks visit almost every neighborhood in the United States daily. It is retrograde and disconcerting that the USPS shows such disregard for climate and public health with its decision.

The Postal Service’s proposal received an avalanche of criticism, including from other government agencies. The Environmental Protection Agency called the environmental impact statement “seriously deficient” and “inconsistent with NEPA requirements”. The White House Council on Environmental Quality noted that the USPS “committed to walking a path before seeking to see where that path led.”

The lawsuit comes as the federal government struggles to use its power to curb the climate crisis. President Biden has ordered government agencies to acquire only zero-emission vehicles by 2027 and reduce greenhouse gas pollution by 50% by 2030, goals that will be impossible to achieve if the Postal Service primarily purchases gasoline-powered vehicles.

“Mail trucks are a great opportunity for electrification, as most travel short distances and charge at a central location each night,” Hochberg said. “Instead of punishing communities with more pollution, the USPS can set a strong example for other federal and civilian fleets looking to become electrified. With just one move, the Postal Service can save money in the long run. ultimately increase the country’s energy independence and reduce air pollution across the country.It’s a shame that we have to ask the courts to compel them to do so.