California and 15 states that want the U.S. Postal Service to electrify their mail cars are suing to stop buying thousands of gas-powered trucks while the agency modernizes its delivery fleet.
Three separate lawsuits, filed Thursday by states and environmental groups in New York and California, ask judges to order a more comprehensive environmental review before the Postal Service moves ahead with its next-generation delivery car program.
Prosecutors assert that purchasing delivery vehicles powered by fossil fuels will cause environmental damage for decades to come.
“Louis Deguy’s gas-guzzling fleet ensures decades of pollution with every postcard and package,” said Scott Hochberg, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, referring to the postmaster.
Prosecutors from 16 states — 14 of which are Democratic governors — filed a lawsuit in San Francisco. A separate lawsuit was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Earthjustice, CleanAirNow KC and the Sierra Club in the same venue. Another was submitted by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the United Auto Workers of New York.
All three target an environmental review that supports the Postal Service’s planned purchase of up to 165,000 next-generation delivery vehicles over the next decade.
California Attorney General Rob Ponta said it was important to stop the process before it was too late.
“Once this purchase is completed, we will be stuck with more than 100,000 new fuel-guzzling cars on neighborhood streets, serving homes across our state and across the country, 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 executive and Republican donor appointed by a board of governors controlled by then-President Donald Trump.
“The Postal Service conducted a robust and comprehensive review and fully complied with all of our obligations under the (National Environmental Policy Act),” Postal Service spokesman Kim Froome said Thursday in an email.
The Postal Service contract stipulates that 10% of new cars will be electric, but the Postal Service maintains that more electric cars can be purchased based on financial expectations and strategic considerations.
The percentage of battery-powered cars doubled — to 20% — in the initial $2.98 billion demand for 50,000 vehicles.
Environmentalists maintain 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.
Adrian Martinez, senior attorney for the campaign Earth Justice, Right Zero, said the review process “was so rickety and error-ridden that it failed to meet basic standards of the National Environmental Policy Act.”
New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, said the Postal Service used “fatally flawed decision-making” that led to an outcome that was “financially and environmentally irresponsible.” New York is among the plaintiffs.
The lawsuits may delay the Postal Service’s efforts to replace the ubiquitous delivery trucks that entered service between 1987 and 1994.
If the two parties cannot agree to a settlement, the lawsuit could drag on for months, perhaps even next year, if there are appeals, said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond Law School.
The Postal Service said new gasoline-powered vehicles will get 14.7 miles per gallon (23.7 kilometers per gallon) without air conditioning, compared to 8.4 miles per gallon (13.5 kilogallons) for older vehicles.
Finally, the Postal Service fleet includes 190,000 domestic delivery vehicles. More than 141,000 of those are older models that lack safety features like airbags, anti-lock brakes and backup cameras.
New vehicles are taller, making it easier for postal carriers to grab parcels and parcels that make up a larger share of the volume. It has also improved ergonomics and climate control.
The states that brought the lawsuit are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District in California, the District of Columbia and New York City have also joined that lawsuit.
Sharp reported from Portland, Maine.