16 states sue USPS over its plan to buy gas-guzzling trucks

In three new lawsuits filed Thursday morning, a number of states and nonprofits argue that the Postal Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it made the choice to buy as many as 148,000 new fuel vehicles. “The Postal Service has a historic opportunity to invest in our planet and in our future,” Rob Bonta, lawyer common of California, mentioned in an announcement. “Instead, it is doubling down on outdated technologies that are bad for our environment and bad for our communities.”

California was joined by Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington on the lawsuit, together with the City of New York and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The nonprofit Earthjustice additionally filed a lawsuit with the Center for Biological Diversity, and Natural Resources Defense Council and United Auto Workers filed a separate lawsuit.

The National Environmental Policy Act required that the company do an environmental evaluate—however the lawsuits clarify that USPS signed a contract, and spent years evaluating prototypes, earlier than starting that evaluation. The lawsuits additionally argue that when the evaluation lastly occurred, it was incomplete, deceptive, and biased towards cleaner autos, with flawed estimates of price and different elements.

“This is such a big decision—as one of the largest civilian fleets in the world, purchasing gas-guzzling vehicles for the next decade, the consequences are really high,” says Adrian Martinez, a senior lawyer at Earthjustice. “That’s why we’re taking them to court to try to overturn this bad decision.” Between 2018 and 2020, USPS vehicles emitted 1.7 million metric tons of CO2. The vehicles make up a 3rd of the federal fleet, which the Biden administration desires to shift to electrical autos—however the USPS is a quasi-independent company and made its choice with out Biden’s help. The present vehicles have been in use for many years, and it’s doubtless that the subsequent technology of autos can even be round for many years.

The new mail vehicles can be ordered in phases, with the primary to be delivered in 2023. “Depending on how quickly the case moves, it could impact that order,” Martinez says. “And compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act was specifically written into the contract for these vehicles. So the contractor who’s making the vehicle knows that there is a failure to comply with federal law, like the National Environmental Policy Act, that could throw the order into jeopardy.”

The USPS relied on defective assumptions in its environmental evaluation, Earthjustice’s lawsuit alleges, together with underestimating how far an EV battery may journey on a cost, and overestimating the price of these batteries (the company additionally primarily based its price comparability on fuel at $2.19 per gallon; the typical price of fuel is now over $4 a gallon). USPS has argued that it might want extra funding to purchase extra electrical autos, however its math could also be mistaken. The lawsuit says that USPS additionally miscalculated the emissions impression of the brand new vehicles and didn’t think about air high quality impacts or environmental justice.

In an emailed assertion to Fast Company, a spokesperson for USPS wrote that the company “fully complied with all of our obligations under NEPA” in its procurement of a brand new fleet, which included the acquisition of roughly 10,000 battery-powered autos. The spokesperson additionally denied the declare that electrical autos are less expensive than gas-powered vehicles. “We will continue to look for opportunities to increase the electrification of our delivery fleet in a responsible manner, consistent with our operating strategy, the deployment of appropriate infrastructure, and our financial condition, which we expect to continue to improve as we pursue our plan,” the spokesperson mentioned.

In February, the Environmental Protection Agency despatched a letter to USPS criticizing its evaluation. Earlier this month, in a panel earlier than the House Oversight and Reform Committee, lawmakers grilled USPS on its plans. But the lawsuits would be the final likelihood to power the company to alter course. The EPA “highlighted some serious flaws in the Postal Service’s analysis, and the Postal Service just ignored them outright,” Martinez says. “And so I think we’re at the stage where groups are going to have to rely on litigation to try to overturn this wrongheaded decision by the Postal Service.”

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