California and 15 states that want the U.S. Postal Service to electrify its mail delivery vehicles are suing to stop purchases of thousands of gas-powered trucks as the agency upgrades its delivery fleet.
Three separate lawsuits, filed Thursday by states and environmental groups in New York and California, ask judges to order a more thorough environmental review before the Postal Service moves forward with the delivery vehicle program new generation.
The plaintiffs argue that fossil fuel delivery vehicle purchases will cause environmental damage for decades. The lawsuits could further delay the Postal Service’s efforts to replace the ubiquitous delivery trucks that were put into service between 1987 and 1994.
“Louis DeJoy’s gas-guzzling fleet guarantees decades of pollution with every postcard and every package,” said Scott Hochberg, attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, referring to the postmaster general.
Attorneys general from 16 states — 14 of which have Democratic governors — sued in San Francisco. A separate lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, Earthjustice, CleanAirNow KC and Sierra Club has been filed at the same location. Another was filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and United Auto Workers in New York.
All three target the environmental review that underpins the Postal Service’s planned purchase of up to 165,000 next-generation delivery vehicles over the next decade.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta said it was essential to stop the process before it was too late.
“Once this purchase is complete, we will be stuck with more than 100,000 new gas-guzzling vehicles on neighborhood streets, serving homes across our state and nation, for the next 30 years. There will be no reset button,” he said.
The Postal Service has defended the process it followed under DeJoy, a wealthy former logistics official and Republican donor who was appointed by a board of governors controlled by then-President Donald Trump.
“The Postal Service has conducted a rigorous and thorough review and has fully complied with all of our obligations under (the National Environmental Policy Act),” spokesman Kim Frum said in an email Thursday.
The Postal Service contract calls for 10% of new vehicles to be electric, but the Postal Service says more electric vehicles can be purchased based on financial outlook and strategic considerations.
The percentage of battery electric vehicles doubled – to 20% – in the initial $2.98 billion order for 50,000 vehicles.
Environmental advocates argue that the Postal Service’s environmental review was inadequate and flawed, and that the contract represented a missed opportunity to electrify the fleet and reduce emissions.
The review process “was so rickety and riddled with errors that it failed to meet basic standards of the National Environmental Policy Act,” said Adrian Martinez, senior counsel for Earthjustice’s Right to Zero campaign. .
New York Attorney General Letitia James said the Postal Service used “fatally flawed decision-making” that led to a “fiscally and environmentally irresponsible” outcome. New York is among the plaintiffs.
If the parties fail to agree on a settlement, the trial could drag on for months, possibly until next year, if there are appeals, said Carl Tobias, a professor at the faculty of law from the University of Richmond.
New gasoline vehicles would get 14.7 miles per gallon without air conditioning, compared to 8.4 mpg for older vehicles, the Postal Service said.
In total, the Postal Service fleet includes 190,000 local delivery vehicles. More than 141,000 of them are older models that lack safety features such as airbags, anti-lock brakes and backup cameras.
The new vehicles are taller to make it easier for postmen to grab parcels and parcels that make up a larger share of the volume. They also improved ergonomics and air conditioning.
The states that sued include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
California’s Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the District of Columbia and New York City have also joined this lawsuit.