House Democrats seek investigation into USPS mail truck contract

WASHINGTON — Democrats on the House Oversight Committee want an investigation into a US Postal Service plan to replace aging mail trucks with vehicles that run primarily on gasoline.

The plan largely ignores White House calls to replenish its mail fleet with electric vehicles and has drawn sharp criticism from the Biden administration, Democratic lawmakers and environmentalists, who say it falls far short of President Joe Biden’s goals to tackle climate change.

In a letter Monday, Democrats on the oversight panel asked the agency’s inspector general to investigate whether the postal service complied with the National Environmental Policy Act and other laws in awarding a 10-year contract to Wisconsin-based Oshkosh Defense to up to 165,000 new mail trucks.

Only 10% of the initial order will be for EVs; the remaining 90% will use traditional petrol engines.

The Environmental Protection Agency, the White House Council on Environmental Quality and “numerous environmental stakeholders” have expressed concern that the Postal Service failed to meet its NEPA obligations in issuing the contract, lawmakers said in a statement. a letter to Tammy Whitcomb, the Postal Service superintendent. general.

“Given the significant public interest in this acquisition and the significant shortcomings” in the environmental analysis identified by the EPA and the White House, “it is critical that Congress understands whether the postal service has properly complied with its legal environmental obligations.” the legislators wrote.

The letter was signed by five Democratic lawmakers, including Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York, the panel chair, and Gerry Connolly of Virginia, chair of a government operations subcommittee.

Lawmakers said they strongly support the purchase of electric vehicles for the Postal Service fleet, saying it would “significantly reduce emissions and position the Postal Service as an environmental leader” in the U.S.

A spokeswoman said the inspector general’s office received the letter Monday and is reviewing it.

The Postal Service awarded Oshkosh Defense a contract worth up to $11 billion over a 10-year period to replace its 230,000 fleet of vehicles. The company has said it will make its Next Generation Delivery Vehicles at a reconfigured warehouse in South Carolina, creating 1,000 new jobs.

The Postal Service said last month it believes it has fulfilled all its obligations and is making progress despite widespread criticism.

The agency has “carefully reviewed and processed” feedback from EPA and the White House regarding the new contract and believes that “there is no legal or other basis to delay the (vehicle replacement) program,” spokeswoman Kim said. frum.

The new contract will deliver 5,000 electric vehicles from 2023 and “provide significant environmental benefits through the introduction of safer and more environmentally friendly vehicles,” Frum said. Flexibility built into the contract will allow for more electric vehicles “should additional financing become available,” she added.

In their letter, lawmakers cited numerous concerns raised by the EPA, including allegations that the contract was awarded before the environmental assessment was completed, and that the postal service omitted key data on climate change and other issues when completing the assessment.

The USPS review “underestimates greenhouse gas emissions” of the new fleet, “does not consider more environmentally-preserving viable alternatives, and does not adequately consider impacts on communities with environmental justice concerns,” the EPA said in a Feb. 2 letter.

The EPA called the proposal “a critical missed opportunity to accelerate the reduction of the carbon footprint of one of the largest government fleets in the world.” fleet.

The new vehicles are greener than current models, which have been in use for three decades or more, but most will run on gasoline.

An electrified fleet would save about 135 million gallons of fuel a year, said Adrian Martinez, an attorney for the environmental group Earthjustice who has urged the Biden administration to force the postal service to suspend or postpone the contract and propose a more environmentally friendly solution. plan to develop. †

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Republican donor and ally of former President Donald Trump, has said the 10% EV production is the best the postal service can do given its “poor financial condition.” It would take an additional $3.3 billion to convert the entire USPS fleet to battery-powered electrical power, DeJoy said.

The Postal Service’s decision runs counter to Biden’s goal of converting all federal government vehicles to zero-emission models by 2035. The Postal Service is overseen by a board of governors and does not take orders from the president. Biden has nominated two people to serve on the board, but they have not been confirmed, leaving the panel under the control of Republican chairman Roman Martinez.