16 States Are Suing the U.S. Postal Service

16 States Are Suing the U.S. Postal Service
What if... all of these were electric vehicles? (Photo: AP/STRF/STAR MAX/IPx, AP)

The U.S. Postal Service won’t give up gas without a fight, and now it’s getting one.

California Attorney General, Rob Bonta, is leading the charge. He filed a lawsuit today against USPS over the postal service’s plans to replace about 165,000 ageing, fossil-fuel-powered delivery vehicles with another round of gas-guzzling trucks. The suit is backed by attorneys generals of 15 other states, and as a bonus, Washington D.C., New York City, and environmental groups.

In the legal complaint, the states begin their introduction with the following:

The United States Postal Service has one of the largest civilian vehicle fleets in the world. Its vehicles are on the road, six days a week, in every community in the United States. While they play a critical role delivering the nation’s mail, these vehicles also pollute the air in the communities where they operate and emit significant amounts of greenhouse gases. As its current vehicle fleet nears the end of its useful life, the Postal Service has been presented with a tremendous opportunity to convert its fleet to zero-emission, electric vehicles, a change that would alleviate pollution in overburdened communities and help tackle the climate crisis.

And they’re not wrong. Swapping all of the old vehicles with new, electric ones would prevent an estimated 537,415 metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, from direct tailpipe emissions alone. And that’s according to the USPS’s own environmental impact statement on the issue. For context, removing that amount of CO2 from the equation is equivalent to almost 9 million trees growing for 10 years.

On top of the carbon emissions, the USPS estimated that transitioning to an all-electric fleet would also prevent almost 1 million tons of harmful nitrogen oxides from entering the air annually, along with more than 11,000 tons of carbon monoxide, and hundreds of tons of deadly particulate matter.

The Biden Administration has previously pledged to transition 100% of government vehicles to zero-emission models by 2035. But last year, the postal service announced a new, gas-powered design for their trucks, that didn’t go over so well. Those upgraded vehicles would only offer a .4-mile-per-gallon improvement (up to a dismal 8.6 mpg) over the status quo, according to the EPA, which issued a letter urging the USPS to reconsider its decision in February. The White House Council on Environmental Quality also weighed in, siding with electric options.

There are earnest conversations to be had about the range of electric vehicles for serving rural areas, or how to install all those chargers, but ultimately, the USPS has said it’s opting to not go with EVs because of the cost. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy cited “dire financial condition(s),” in a February statement maintaining that the USPS would be keeping its foot on the gas pedal.

DeJoy further stated that 5,000 electric vehicles is all his agency can afford unless they get more money. “Absent such funding, we must make fiscally responsible decisions,” he said.

For context: the added cost to the USPS of opting for electric vehicles over new, combustion-engine vehicles would only be $US2.3 ($3) billion — absolute chump-change for the federal government that spends $US6 ($8) million dollars on each new, quasi-functional tank it builds, according to a report by Forbes. Or, $US13 ($18) billion alone on an uncertain aircraft carrier, according to Bloomberg.

And, as the 30-year age of the current retiring fleet goes to show, decisions made now to save a couple billon bucks will have long-lasting impacts. “Once this purchase goes through, we’ll be stuck with more than 100,000 new gas-guzzling vehicles on neighbourhood streets, serving homes across our state and across the country, for the next 30 years. There won’t be a reset button,” said AG Bonta, in a statement. He added, “We’re going to court to make sure the Postal Service complies with the law and considers more environmentally friendly alternatives before it makes this decision.”