The United States Postal Service recently said it will move forward with its original plan to replace its aging fleet of delivery trucks with mostly gas-powered vehicles. According to the plan, the USPS will replace the fleet with 90 percent gas-powered vehicles, and 10 percent electric vehicles, despite a cultural norm moving toward the mainstream adoption of electric vehicles. Many major auto manufacturers plan to release fully electric vehicles within the next three to five years.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and White House objected to the move. Both are asking for further study of the impact of emissions before making a decision. But Postmaster General Louis DeJoy argues that he lacks the funding needed to increase the EVs in the fleet.
“As we have reiterated throughout this process, our commitment to an electric fleet remains ambitious. [We must also navigate the] pressing vehicle and safety needs of our aging fleet, as well as our fragile financial condition,” DeJoy said in a statement. “Therefore, the process needs to keep moving forward.”
Environmental agencies want the USPS to comply with their demands for an electric fleet
EPA associate administrator Vicki Arroyo said the USPS plan felt “inconsistent” with clean-energy policies at state, federal, and international levels. She called DeJoy’s decision a “crucial lost opportunity to more rapidly reduce the carbon footprint of one of the largest government fleets in the world.”
Brenda Mallory, chair of the White House Council of Environmental Quality, publicly urged the USPS to improve its environmental oversight. If it refuses, it risks facing repercussions from Congress or the courts.
The USPS does not have to answer to any regulatory body, though. It operates as an independent agency responsible for funding itself. The USPS does enjoy federal protections like heightened consequences for broken laws (like federal mail fraud); but it is not a “branch” of the government in the classical sense.
In a statement, Mark Guilfoil, vice president for supply management at USPS, called the EPA’s bluff. He then said the postal service “determined that the EPA’s request for a supplemental impact statement and public hearing would not add value to the Postal Service’s already year-long review.”
He also said that neither were legally required.
Smaller environmental agencies may challenge the plan via litigation
USPS did say it remains open to a substantial increase in the number of EVs in the fleet “as financial resources become available.” For now, the gas-powered plan moves forward.
Adrian Martinez, an attorney at the environmental law group Earthjustice, said he would pursue litigation to alter the outcome.
“DeJoy’s environmental review is rickety. It’s founded on suspect calculations, and fails to meet the standards of the law,” Martinez said. “We’re not done fighting this reckless decision regarding the USPS fleet.”