Attorney General James Sues U.S. Postal Service For Failing To Consider Environmental Impact Of New Trucks

April 28, 2022

New York Attorney General Letitia James and California Attorney General Rob Bonta today led a multistate coalition in suing the United States Postal Service (USPS).

They are suing the USPS for failing to consider the environmental impact of its new fleet of mail trucks.

The USPS purchased a new fleet of vehicles without first holding the mandatory environmental review, a violation of National Environmental Policy Act’s (NEPA) most basic requirements.

The review failed to consider and evaluate fleets that included electric vehicles, instead opting to replace up to 165,000 of its delivery vehicles with 90 percent gas-powered vehicles.

The coalition’s suit seeks a court order to block USPS from moving ahead with the purchase until it fully complies with NEPA.

“Louis DeJoy’s choice to ignore the law and buy an almost entirely gas-fueled fleet of 165,000 vehicles is fiscally and environmentally irresponsible,” said Attorney General James. “This decision will have lasting and devastating consequences for our environment, and the health and wellbeing of New Yorkers. I stand with my colleagues across the country in opposing USPS’s fatally flawed decision-making, and we will fight to ensure our laws are followed and our communities are protected.”

The USPS has one of the largest civilian vehicle fleets in the world, consisting of more than 212,000 vehicles. While these vehicles play a critical role in delivering the nation’s mail, they also emit significant amounts of greenhouse gases and other hazardous air pollutants.

Neighborhoods that host USPS facilities are often located in low-income communities, communities of color, and Tribal and indigenous communities — those already overburdened by pollution.

A recent analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists showed that emissions from cars, trucks, and buses are a leading source of harmful air pollution in New York, with Black, Latino, and Asian New Yorkers exposed at higher rates than their white counterparts.

Due to the transformational nature of updating its fleet and its significant environmental and public health implications, USPS was obligated to assess the impacts of its Next Generation Delivery Vehicle Acquisitions program under NEPA.

Instead, USPS chose a manufacturer, signed a contract, and made a substantial down payment for new, almost entirely gas-powered vehicles before publishing a mandatory environmental review.

Through this environmental review, USPS failed to consider and evaluate vehicle fleets with more electric vehicle options.

In the lawsuit, the coalition argues that USPS’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) violated NEPA and should be set aside because:

  • USPS violated well-established legal precedent by signing contracts with a defense contractor to procure the vehicles before releasing its draft environmental review;
  • USPS failed to consider reasonable alternatives to its proposed action and arbitrarily rejected any consideration of vehicle fleets with a greater percentage of electric vehicles;
  • USPS’s environmental review failed to properly consider air quality, environmental justice, and climate impacts of purchasing a primarily gas powered fleet;
  • The Final EIS failed to ensure the scientific integrity of its analysis by relying on unfounded assumptions and failing to provide the source of the data it considered; and
  • The Final EIS is inconsistent with state policies to reduce fossil fuel consumption and to encourage the development and use of clean vehicles.

Joining Attorney General James and Attorney General Bonta in filing the lawsuit are the attorney generals of Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, as well as the City of New York and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Claiborne E. Walthall and Senior Counsel Michael J. Myers of the Environmental Protection Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic, Assistant Attorney General Lindsay McKenzie of the Civil Rights Bureau, and Senior Enforcement Counsel Rachel Hannaford of the Housing Protection Unit, under the supervision of Unit Chief Brent Meltzer.

The Environmental Protection Bureau, Civil Rights Bureau, and Housing Protection Unit are part of the Division for Social Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux and overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.

Photo credit: Letitia James at Source.

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