The U.S. Postal Service could soon face its strongest pressure yet to pause its contract to overhaul its fleet, with House Democrats scheduling a preliminary vote to require the mailing agency to further assess purchasing electric vehicles.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., who chairs the House Oversight and Reform Committee, will introduce and hold a vote on the Ensuring an Accurate Postal Fleet Electrification Act on Wednesday. The measure would invalidate the existing environmental impact study USPS conducted on its contract with Oshkosh Defense to buy primarily internal combustion engine vehicles and force it to conduct a new one. Oshkosh will manufacture up to 165,000 trucks and earn billions of dollars under the contract, though only 10% of the vehicles will be electric under postal management’s existing commitment.
USPS has faced criticism from the Biden administration, lawmakers and environmental groups for its impact study, questioning its assumptions and the timing of its release after the contract was already awarded to Oshkosh. Various organizations launched two lawsuits in separate federal courts last week, alleging the Postal Service failed to properly account for long-term savings from EVs, used unreasonably low gas prices in making its calculations, and neglected factors such as local air quality and environmental justice considerations. The study undercounted greenhouse gas emissions that would result from the vehicles and failed to analyze all pollutants that come from internal combustion engines, they said.
The Biden administration previously pushed the Postal Service to conduct a new environmental review, but management said further consideration of its options and impacts would not yield better information or change the agency’s decisions. The Environmental Protection Agency has called USPS’ environmental analysis “fundamentally flawed” and said the agency failed to consider all relevant factors. Brenda Mallory, chair of the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality, said USPS should have corrected those flaws before moving forward in the process.
Unlike legislation pushed by other Democratic lawmakers, Maloney’s bill would not require a set percentage of new postal vehicles to be electric. Postal management has said it is open to increasing its EV purchases if Congress provides appropriations for them.
“As we have stated repeatedly, we must make fiscally prudent decisions in the needed introduction of a new vehicle fleet,” USPS spokeswoman Kim Frum said last week. “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.”
In a recent interview with Government Executive, DeJoy said USPS will not see all 50,000 vehicles from its initial order on the road until 2027. While postal management has suggested it could buy a higher rate of EVs in the future if more funding becomes available, DeJoy said the next purchase is too far away to make a determination.
CEQ’s Mallory will testify before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday, where she is likely to face questions on the USPS fleet contract. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., who chairs the panel, is closely involved in postal oversight and has pushed DeJoy to purchase more EVs.
The White House and congressional Democrats have both proposed providing $6 billion for USPS to electrify its fleet, though the vehicle for that funding—the Build Back Better Act—remains in limbo. Biden has called on the entire federal government to switch to electric vehicles over the coming decades. Lawmakers have said that after USPS ended 2021 with $23 billion on hand and received $107 in financial relief through the recently signed into law Postal Service Reform Act that the agency can afford to buy a much higher share of EVs, but postal management has insisted it must use that money for other projects.
The USPS inspector general found in a March report that EVs would be cheaper in the long run for longer delivery routes, especially those in areas with particularly high gas prices.