California Attorney General Rob Bonta is suing the United States Postal Service.
You’d think that after California passed a law requiring the USPS to virtually run our elections, state officials would be a little nicer to the federal agency, but no, we’re suing them.
This time it’s about delivery vehicles. California is outraged by the Postal Service’s decision to purchase what the lawsuit alleges are “internal combustion engine vehicles powered by fossil fuels.”
According to the California lawsuit, joined by 15 other states, the District of Columbia, New York City and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the USPS violated the National Environmental Policy Act. The law requires the Postal Service to closely examine the impacts of its “next-generation delivery vehicle acquisition” program before announcing a final decision.
So now your tax dollars will be spent in a long legal wrangle over the definition of “tough look.”
The lawsuit complains that the Postal Service “chosen a manufacturer with minimal experience in producing electric vehicles, signed a contract, and made a substantial down payment for the new vehicles,” and then issued only a ” cursory environmental scrutiny to justify decision to replace 90 percent of its delivery fleet with internal combustion engine vehicles powered by fossil fuels, despite other available and environmentally preferable alternatives This, California argues, violates laws and jeopardizes the future of the planet.
Perhaps what the Postal Service really violated is what Governor Gavin Newsom likes to call “the California way.” It is the process of passing a law to make it mandatory to purchase something that is made by a California campaign donor. The Postal Service signed contracts with “a defense company,” Oshkosh Defense, LLC, “to acquire vehicles six months before it even released its draft environmental review, and a year before it released the environmental impact statement. final and the record of decision”.
You might think the Postal Service’s job is to deliver mail reliably and quickly, but California’s lawsuit makes that seem secondary to its responsibility to spend your tax dollars promoting the most recent. “The Postal Service spurred the nationwide adoption of stagecoach, the nationwide expansion of railroads, the nationwide use of air transportation, and the development of electric vehicles,” Bonta’s complaint states.
The Postal Service operates one of the largest fleets of civilian vehicles in the world, with approximately 212,000 vehicles delivering mail to more than 163 million locations in the United States. Most of these vehicles were manufactured before 1994 and need to be replaced. So the Postal Service created the Next Generation Delivery Vehicle Acquisition Program to evaluate, test, and eventually purchase approximately 165,000 vehicles over the next decade.
The USPS announced in February 2021 that it had awarded a contract to Oshkosh Defense, LLC, for “one-time engineering and tooling costs”. The contract allows Swiss Post to purchase between 50,000 and 165,000 “new generation delivery vehicles” over a 10-year period. According to the lawsuit, the Postal Service gave Oshkosh Defense up to $482 million and instructions to support two powertrain alternatives – a “modern and efficient” internal combustion engine and a battery-electric vehicle. In June, the company announced it would open a plant in South Carolina to build the USPS vehicles.
Then, in August, the Postal Service announced its proposed environmental impact statement for the vehicle acquisition process, ultimately deciding that its “preferred alternative” was to procure a fleet of bespoke vehicles made up of 90% internal combustion engines and 10% battery electric vehicles.
The Postal Service stressed that it had “a congressional mandate to maintain efficient mail delivery nationwide and to provide prompt, reliable, and efficient service to customers.” He noted that battery electric vehicles have a higher total cost of ownership and limited range that makes them unusable on longer rural roads.
California says the Postal Service is unaware of the latest technology and has not sufficiently studied the impacts of its new vehicles on “air quality, environmental justice, and climate damage.”
Unless the case is settled, this legal action to determine whether the Postal Service has fulfilled its legal duty to “look carefully” could continue until it reaches the Supreme Court, or until what a first class stamp costs more than a gallon of gasoline, whichever comes first.
Email Susan at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @Susan_Shelley.