The United Auto Workers union, sixteen states, and four environmental groups recently filed lawsuits against the United States Postal Service (USPS). The groups aim to stop the Postal Service’s plan to purchase and produce gas-powered delivery vehicles to update its fleet.
The USPS announced it would spend up to $11.3 billion on up to 165,000 gas-powered NGDVs. The Biden Administration urged the Postal Service to reconsider its plans. President Biden had ordered federal agencies to phase out the purchase of gas-powered vehicles, and the USPS makes up a third of the U.S. government fleet.
In March, the USPS received criticism from U.S. lawmakers in the House Oversight Committee for its gas-powered Next Generation Delivery Vehicles (NGDV). The Committee sent a letter to the USPS Inspector General requesting an investigation into the agency’s NGDV order. According to the Committee’s letter, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the White House Council for Environmental Quality (CEQ), and numerous environmental stakeholders were concerned that the USPA did not meet NEPA obligations with its gas-powered NGDV fleet.
The USPS responded to EPA feedback with a record of decision (ROD), which outlined the Postal Service’s decision to purchase and deploy 50,000 to 165,000 NGDVs over the next ten years. The agency stated that the NGDV fleet would be a mix of ICE and battery electric delivery vans. Electric vehicles would make up at least 10% of the agency’s fleet. However, the Postal Service also determined that ICE NGDVs were the “most achievable” replacements for its existing fleet.
USPS Lawsuits by States
As per Reuters, sixteen states, led by New York and California, filed a lawsuit against the USPS for its flawed and unlawful environmental analysis of the NGDV program. The lawsuit also accuses the Postal Service of signing the contracts to purchase the gas-powered NGDV before completing a draft environmental review.
According to the CEQ, the Postal Service’s final review for the NGDV program was “flawed in some ways that cannot be so easily remedied.” For example, USPS estimated that the gas-powered NGDVs would get 29.9 miles per gallon, but the EPA discovered that the vehicles would only get 14.7 miles per gallon or less.
UAW and NRDC Lawsuit
Besides the states lawsuit, the UAW filed a joint lawsuit with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), claiming the USPS “failed on multiple levels” when it evaluated and finalized the contract for the NGDVs. The two parties demand that the agency stop producing the next-generation delivery vehicles. As per the complaint, the UAW and NRDC stated that the NGDV contract is “based on an unlawfully deficient environmental analysis issued after the Postal Service had already decided on a course of action.”
The two parties also criticized the agency’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The UAW and NRDC claim that the Postal Service did not consider the impact NGDV production — opposed to the operation — would have on the local environment. The EIS did not disclose that the vehicles would be produced in South Carolina by Oshkosh Defense, a Wisconsin-based contractor.
“With this contract, USPS and Oshkosh Defense abandoned the Wisconsin workers that built the company and failed taxpayers with a sham process to evaluate the environmental and community impacts of these vehicles. The USPS’s Next Generation Delivery Vehicle is an opportunity for the Biden administration to reverse-court and make real investments in both a cleaner future and good union jobs The contract as it currently stands fails on both accounts. It’s time to halt production and start the procurement process over,” said Ray Curry, president of the United Auto Workers.