Energy & Environment

Democratic lawmakers criticize USPS plan to purchase gas-powered trucks

A U.S. Postal Service truck is seen in a parking lot at the Newgate Shopping Center in Centerville, Va., on Thursday, October 14, 2021.
Greg Nash

Democratic leaders in the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition (SEEC) criticized the United States Postal Service for its plans to purchase a predominantly fossil fuel-powered fleet rather than investing in electric vehicles. 

In a letter to the Postal Service sent Wednesday, Reps. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.), Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) expressed “strong opposition” to the plan, saying that it “failed to abide properly by National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements.”

“Instead, it [the Postal Service] moved forward with an almost-exclusively fossil fuel powered fleet procurement, which flies in the face of the commitments the United States has made to address the climate crisis and counters the long-term economic interests of your own agency,” the Democratic leaders wrote. 

The coalition leaders urged the Postal Service to reverse the decision and accept recommendations from the  Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Council on Environmental Quality, both of which also pressed the service to reconsider the plans.

The leaders said they were particularly concerned about learning that Postal Service pursued a $480 million commitment to begin the engineering and construction of new fossil fuel-powered trucks before the EPA started an environmental review, noting that they are concerned that the Postal Service “has chosen to treat NEPA as an inconvenience.”

“The central premise of NEPA is that the environmental analysis required under the law should inform the agency decision,” they said. “The law is not meant to provide an ex post facto justification of a predetermined outcome.”

Their criticisms come after Postmaster General Louis DeJoy defended the decision on Tuesday, saying that the postal service’s ambition to acquire a fully electric fleet is “ambitious” given the current circumstances and “our dire financial condition.”

While the SEEC leaders said they empathize with Postal Service’s limitations, the House responded to the financial concerns by passing the Build Back Better Act, which provided $6 billion to help the Postal Service pay for electric vehicles and its related infrastructure.

They also noted the House is scheduled to consider the Postal Service Reform Act this week, which they said “would help relieve the agency of long-standing financial troubles and provide a secure foundation from which the Postal Service can make forward-leaning investments in its vehicle fleet.”

However, the SEEC members urged the Postal Service to reconsider the plan even without the additional funding. 

“This is the moment for the federal government to step up and use its purchasing power to invest in the clean technology that is poised to drive our economy’s future,” they wrote. “The Postal Service must be part of the solution to the climate crisis and not disregard the NEPA process and our national and international climate commitments.”

Tags Alan Lowenthal Chellie Pingree Donald McEachin Doris Matsui EPA Louis DeJoy Matt Cartwright Mike Quigley Paul Tonko Postal Services USPS

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