Why Pa., NJ and Del. sue USPS for electric vehicles

“This is not a small business the Postal Service is getting into,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said. “They are working to replace the largest civilian fleet in the world. The scale of this phenomenon is enormous and will undeniably have a lasting impact on our environment. Which makes it even worse that the process was done in a rush and with sloppy.

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

All three lawsuits say the Postal Service violated NEPA by only initiating an EIS after contracting with Oshkosh Defense to build 165,000 new trucks in February 2021.

“It’s a very unusual decision,” said Scott Hochberg, attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. “The purpose of the environmental review is to inform the Postal Service’s decision not to automatically approve a plan it has already developed.”

The center filed a complaint working with the Sierra Club and CleanAir Now, a Kansas-based environmental group, asking a judge to stop all payments until a new EIS is completed.

Hochberg says he also violated NEPA by not considering alternatives to buying 100% electric vehicles.

“In the EIS, the USPS said that 5% of its routes were not suitable for electric vehicles due to length or other considerations, but it never analyzed an alternative to 95% vehicles. electric,” Hochberg said. “At the very least, even assuming the USPS is correct in its assumptions, 95% should be electric vehicles.”

The lawsuits detail flawed analysis within the EIS, including overstating the cost of electric batteries while understating the future cost of gasoline. The Postal Service assumed that a gallon of gasoline would cost about $2.50 twenty years from now, about half the current price.

A “seriously deficient” environmental impact statement

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Council on Environmental Quality issued critical comments on the EIA. 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 Government Accountability Office’s physical infrastructure team, said the Postal Service also had under -estimated the savings resulting from the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and overestimated the maintenance costs on electric vehicles.

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

At the same hearing, Victoria Stephens, executive director of the Postal Service’s Next Generation Delivery Vehicle program, defended the plan, saying the costs would be too high to commit to more electric vehicles. Stephens told the committee he had reviewed more than 200,000 transport routes, assessed fuel and maintenance costs, as well as the cost of purchasing electric vehicles and building 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 who criticize the review ignore the differences between postal trucks and delivery vans used by their competitors. “Our vehicles … travel short distances between hundreds of curbside boxes and stop and start frequently throughout the day,” Postal Service spokesman Kim Frum said in an email.

“Similarly, these reviews turn a blind eye to our unique service requirements, which require us to deliver mail to delivery boxes on post offices,” she wrote. “These service requirements make off-the-shelf commercial vehicles particularly unsuitable for certain routes, and the purpose-built, right-hand-drive NGDVs we acquire defy comparison of cost and environment made by observers who are not not fully informed.”

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