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May 21, 2022
Postal Service Defies Biden Administration, Moving Forward With Plan To Buy Gas-Powered Mail Trucks
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Postal Service Defies Biden Administration, Moving Forward With Plan To Buy Gas-Powered Mail Trucks

Topline
The U.S. Postal Service will proceed with an $11.3 billion plan to replace its aging mail trucks with largely gas-powered new vehicles, the agency announced Wednesday, with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy ignoring calls from the Biden administration to purchase more electric vehicles.

A U.S. Post Office truck on February 10 in North Haledon, NJ.

Getty Images

Key Facts

USPS will “[proceed] with next steps” in its plan to replace its mail trucks after completing a required study of the proposal’s environmental impact, the agency announced Wednesday.

USPS intends to spend $11.3 billion to replace its current mail trucks with up to 165,000 new vehicles over the next 10 years—only 10% of which are guaranteed to be electric vehicles, while the others would have gas-powered engines.

That goes against President Joe Biden’s executive order directing federal vehicles to be converted to “clean and zero-emissions vehicles” by 2035, and the Guardian notes the new gas-powered vehicles would have worse fuel efficiency (8.2 miles per gallon) than the most gas-guzzling pickup trucks.

The Environmental Protection Agency and White House Council on Environmental Quality wrote to USPS in early February asking it to reconsider the plan, with the EPA saying its environmental impact statement for the new trucks was “seriously deficient” and the agency had “systematically and substantially underestimated” the emissions from its new vehicles.

DeJoy has defended the plan, saying buying more electric vehicles is unrealistic given the agency’s financial condition and USPS was “compelled to act prudently in the interest of the American public.”

DeJoy said in a statement Wednesday the agency would pursue buying more electric vehicles “as additional funding – from either internal or congressional sources – becomes available,” but the truck plan “needs to keep moving forward” in the meantime.

Big Number
$900 million. That’s the amount of climate damage the USPS vehicle plan would cause based on the present “social cost of carbon dioxide,” EPA Associate Administrator Vicki Arroyo projected in her letter to USPS.

Crucial Quote
“As we have reiterated throughout this process, our commitment to an electric fleet remains ambitious given the pressing vehicle and safety needs of our aging fleet as well as our fragile financial condition,” DeJoy said in a statement Wednesday. “The men and women of the U.S. Postal Service have waited long enough for safer, cleaner vehicles.”

Chief Critic
“The Postal Service’s proposal as currently crafted represents a crucial lost opportunity to more rapidly reduce the carbon footprint of one of the largest government fleets in the world,” Arroyo wrote in the EPA’s letter to USPS, noting the plan is “plainly inconsistent with international, national, and many state GHG emissions reduction targets” and “has significant implications for the nation’s air quality and public health.”

What To Watch For
What effect this will have on DeJoy. The controversy over the mail trucks has sparked renewed calls from Democratic lawmakers for him to resign or be fired, with Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) saying the truck snafu is an “enormous example” of why he believes DeJoy should be ousted. DeJoy can only be fired by the USPS Board of Governors, however—which remains unlikely to kick him out. Though the board will soon be made up by a majority of Biden appointees after the president nominated two more board members in November, at least one of them is a Republican, and it’s unclear whether some of the others would be on board with firing DeJoy. The mail truck plan may also get tied up in litigation, as Bloomberg notes environmental groups are likely to sue USPS in an effort to stop it.

Key Background
The mail truck proposal is the latest in a series of controversial moves by DeJoy, a longtime GOP donor and Trump ally, that have drawn Democratic ire. The postmaster general imposed changes at USPS soon after taking office in summer 2020 that sparked widespread mail delays and angered Democrats who feared the slowdown would impact mail-in ballots. While those changes were ultimately reversed, DeJoy then invited new criticism with a 10-year plan for USPS that slows down some mail delivery, which went into effect in October over objections from Democrats and the Postal Regulatory Commission. Congress is moving forward with a USPS reform bill that would remove several of the major roadblocks that have hindered the agency’s finances, though the Senate’s efforts to pass the bipartisan legislation have stalled after Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) stopped the chamber last week from proceeding with a vote.

Further Reading
Biden officials push to hold up $11.3 billion USPS truck contract, citing climate damage (Washington Post)

DeJoy defends plan to replace USPS fleet with gas-powered trucks, citing ‘dire financial condition’ (CNN)

US postal service under fire for plan to spend $11.3bn on gas-powered fleet (Guardian)

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