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States, localities sue Postal Service over EV plans

A coalition of 16 states, along with New York City, San Francisco and the District of Columbia sued the U.S. Postal Service on Thursday in a bid to block the agency’s plan to acquire 10,000 electric delivery vehicles.

The complaint, filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, said the Postal Service submitted an inadequate and misleading environmental impact report to justify its decision to replenish its aging fleet mostly with vehicles powered by internal combustion. The complaint asked the court to suspend the Postal Service’s plan to acquire 10,019 electric-powered vehicles from Oshkosh Defense Corp. until the agency files an environmental impact plan that meets federal requirements.

The complaint alleged that the Postal Service failed to take a hard look at the consequences of its strategy before it acted. Instead, it signed a contract with Oshkosh and expended significant resources before issuing a “cursory” environmental review to support its decision to build a fleet made up mostly of fossil fuel-powered trucks, according to the complaint.

The Postal Service chose to consider just two scenarios when evaluating its electric-vehicle needs, according to the complaint. One scenario called for an all-electric fleet, and the other called for 10% of its fleet being electric-powered, according to the complaint. The agency “arbitrarily” rejected any consideration of fleet compositions with a larger, though not exclusive, mix of electric vehicles, according to the complaint.

The Postal Service said last month that it would double its electric fleet purchases to 10,019 vehicles, which accounts for 20% of its initial vehicle order with Oshkosh. The Postal Service plans to buy up to 165,000 vehicles over the next 10 years, and it has said it will consider more electric-vehicle purchases as long as it is fiscally prudent and operationally feasible. The agency isn’t contractually bound to acquire a specific number of electric vehicles. 

The Postal Service has about $24 billion of cash on hand and is expected to free up as much as $107 billion under language in the recently signed Postal Reform bill that ends the agency’s requirement to pre-fund retiree health care benefits.

In a statement Thursday, the Postal Service said it is “committed to the inclusion of electric vehicles as a significant part of our delivery fleet even though the investment will cost more than an internal combustion engine vehicle.”