Overnight Energy & Environment

Energy & Environment — 16 states sue Postal Service over truck order

A U.S. Postal Service Long Life Vehicle is seen in Arlington, Va., on Friday, April 22, 2022.
Greg Nash

A coalition of states and environmental groups is taking the Postal Service to court, Republican AGs want a climate metric blocked and California says Big Oil is to blame for plastic pollution. 

This is Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here. 

Postal Service sued over gas-powered trucks 

Sixteen states and a coalition of environmental groups on Thursday announced a lawsuit against the U.S. Postal Service for its decision to upgrade the majority of its fleet with fossil fuel-powered vehicles.  

Environmental groups and climate hawks in Congress have blasted Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s decision to buy new gas-powered vehicles with mileage of 8.6 miles per gallon. 

Of the up to 165,000 vehicles, the Postal Service has only committed to making about 10 percent of them electric. President Biden in December signed an executive order setting a target of carbon neutrality throughout the federal government, which would be severely complicated if the Postal Service — the single biggest federal fleet — does not transition to renewable energy. 

Who’s on board? Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include EarthJustice, Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity, as well as the attorneys general of California, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. 

New York City and the Bay Area Quality Management District also joined the challenge.  

“The Postal Service has a historic opportunity to invest in our planet and in our future. Instead, it is doubling down on outdated technologies that are bad for our environment and bad for our communities,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) said in a statement. 

“Once this purchase goes through, we’ll be stuck with more than 100,000 new gas-guzzling vehicles on neighborhood streets, serving homes across our state and across the country, for the next 30 years. There won’t be a reset button. We’re going to court to make sure the Postal Service complies with the law and considers more environmentally friendly alternatives before it makes this decision.”  

What are they alleging? In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs accuse DeJoy of using “deeply flawed” techniques on the environmental analysis that led to the order. 

The lawsuit alleges that the Postal Service inflated the costs of batteries to justify lack of electrification and underestimated gas prices. The analysis was conducted before recent surges in gas prices and was based on a projected gas price of $2.19 per gallon. 

The lawsuit also claims that the Postal Service underestimated the mileage per charge of electric vehicles, projecting 70 miles per charge even though currently available vehicles get as much as 200 miles per charge. 

“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,” Adrian Martinez, a senior attorney on Earthjustice’s Right to Zero campaign, said in a statement.

“We’re going to court to protect the millions of Americans breathing in neighborhoods overburdened with tailpipe pollution. Mail delivery in this country should be electric for our health and for our future.”  

Read more about the lawsuit here.

Red states want climate accounting measure blocked

A group of Republican-led states on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to reinstate a court order blocking a key climate accounting measure put in place by the Biden administration amid a legal dispute with potentially high stakes for climate change regulation. 

Led by Louisiana, the GOP-led states urged the justices to revive a federal judge’s February ruling that temporarily stopped the Biden administration’s use of a metric known as the “social costs” of planet-warming gases to quantify the climate costs and benefits of regulatory actions.  

That ruling, by Trump-appointed U.S. Judge James Cain in Louisiana, was halted last month by a New Orleans-based federal appeals court. 

What are they arguing? In court papers filed Thursday, Republican attorneys general from 10 states trained their fire on the metric at issue, formally known as the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gas Estimates, which was first implemented under then-President Obama.  

“The Estimates are a power grab designed to manipulate America’s entire federal regulatory apparatus through speculative costs and benefits so that the Administration can impose its preferred policy outcomes on every sector of the American economy,” the group of GOP-led states wrote in their brief. 

The Obama-era figures gave much more weight to climate damages than figures used under the Trump administration. These “social costs” have been used to help quantify the climate benefits of regulation — or, conversely, the climate costs of deregulation — in agency rulemaking. Higher costs of greenhouse gases can be used to justify more stringent regulations. 

Read more from The Hill’s John Kruzel.

California AG to investigate fossil fuel firms

California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) said on Thursday that he intends to launch an investigation into the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries for their contribution to global plastic pollution. 

Bonta also said he intends to subpoena ExxonMobil as part of this process. 

“The public has been aggressively deceived by some of the largest and most influential corporations in the world,” Bonta said at a Thursday press conference. 

“The fossil fuel and petrochemical industries have engaged in a half-century campaign of deception that has harmed our environment, our people and our natural resources,” he added. 

The investigation aims to identify companies that have either caused or exacerbated the plastic pollution crisis. Bonta said his office will examine “the industry’s historic and ongoing efforts to deceive the public and whether and to what extent these actions may have violated the law.” 

“We will not hesitate to hold these companies accountable if the law was violated,” he added. 

Speaking to reporters from Dockweiler State Beach in Los Angeles, Bonta said that plastic and other waste must be removed daily from these sands, which he characterized as “a small example of the much larger problem.” 

Read more from The Hill’s Sharon Usadin. 

ON TAP TOMORROW

EPA Administrator Michael Regan will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on the agency’s budget  

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • The Permian Basin Oil Field Is Running Out of Workers, Materials—and Cash (The Wall Street Journal
  • Florida governor vetoes net metering bill opposed by rooftop solar proponents (Tampa Bay Times
  • Shell tightens restrictions on Russian oil buying (Reuters
  • Lake Mead plummets to unprecedented low, exposing original 1971 water intake valve (CNN

ICYMI

   And finally, something offbeat and off-beat: Baking up for lost time. 

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Energy & Environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.  

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