A group of U.S. lawmakers in the House Oversight Committee sent a letter to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Inspector General (IG), requesting an investigation into the agency’s order for Next Generation Delivery Vehicles (NGDV).
In a letter dated Monday, March 14, Democrats in the House Oversight Committee asked IG Tammy L. Whitcomb to investigate the Postal Service’s compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). They questioned if the USPS complied with NEPA’s requirements for environmental reviews before finalizing its NGDV contract.
“We write to request that the Postal Service Office of Inspector General (OIG) initiate an investigation into the Postal Service’s compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, particularly the filing of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Next Generation Delivery Vehicle,” wrote the Members.
“The Environmental Protection Agency, the White House Council for Environmental Quality and numerous environmental stakeholders have raised concerns that the Postal Service did not meet its NEPA obligations during its contracting process for the NGDV. These significant concerns warrant an investigation by the OIG.”
The USPS received some criticism from the Biden Administration after it announced plans to spend up to $11.3 billion on as many as 165,000 gas-powered NGDVs. The Biden Administration urged the Postal Service to reconsider its plans to buy mostly internal combustion engine (ICE) delivery vehicles to upgrade its fleet.
The USPS fleet makes up a third of the U.S. government fleet. President Biden ordered all federal agencies to phase out the purchase of gasoline-powered vehicles. Even though the Postal Service is an independent agency, its fleet’s transition to electric vehicles would symbolize the current administration’s determination to move away from fossil fuels.
After receiving some pushback from the Biden Administration about its NGDV plans, the Postal Service issued a statement on February 6, announcing its plans to submit an initial order for 5,000 electric delivery vans. The agency also shared its goals to achieve 70% fleet electrification within the decade.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the White House Council for Environmental Quality (CEQ), and other environmental stakeholders are concerned that the Postal Service did not meet NEPA obligations when it announced a 10-year contract with Oshkosh to manufacture fossil fuel-powered NGDVs.
The EPA pointed out that critical features in the contract were not disclosed in the Postal Service’s final review or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the NGDV program. The CEQ observed that the agency’s final review was “flawed in some ways that cannot be so easily remedied.”
The New York Times discovered some evidence that supported the CEQ’s claims. The Postal Service estimated that the NGDVs would get 29.9 miles per gallon in its review. However, the EPA found that the vehicles would only get 14.7 miles per gallon or even less if air conditioning was factored into the equation.
The Postal Service’s (Current) Stance
USPS published a 340-page Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) under the NEPA process on January 7, 2022. The Postal Service later completed a record of decision (ROD), which featured the agency’s response to feedback from the EPA on the potential environmental impact of the NGDV program.
In its ROD, the Postal Service outlines its decision to purchase and deploy 50,000 to 165,000 NGDVs over the next ten years. It details that the NGDV fleet will be a mix of ICE and battery electric vehicle (BEV) delivery vans. All-electric NGDVs will make up at least 10% of the fleet. The Postal Service determined that ICE NGDVs were the “most achievable” alternative to replacing its existing fleet rather than BEV NGDV, given its financial condition.
“…BEV NGDV(s) ha(ve) a significantly higher total cost of ownership than the ICE NGDV, which is why the Preferred Alternative being implemented does not commit to more than 10 percent BEV NGDV. Finally, the Postal Service notes that the Preferred Alternative as implemented contains the flexibility to significantly increase the percentage of BEV NGDV should additional funding become available from any source,” stated the USPS in its latest ROD.