By Nathalie Voit

More than a dozen states and several environmental groups are suing the United States Postal Service (USPS) over its decision to purchase thousands of gas-powered vehicles for modernizing the agency’s outdated delivery fleet.

Attorneys general from 16 states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit on April 28 in San Francisco, contending the agency’s decision to purchase up to 165,000 next-generation delivery vehicles over the next ten years was based on a faulty environmental analysis. The plaintiffs said that purchasing the fossil-fuel-powered delivery fleet will cause environmental harm for decades to come.

The states were joined by environmental groups from New York and California, which filed separate suits on Thursday.

“Louis DeJoy’s gas-guzzling fleet guarantees decades of pollution with every postcard and package,” said Scott Hochberg, a lawyer with the Center for Biological Diversity, referring to the postmaster general.

“Once this purchase goes through, we’ll be stuck with more than 100,000 new gas-guzzling vehicles on neighborhood streets, serving homes across our state and across the country, for the next 30 years. There won’t be a reset button,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement.

The plaintiffs allege the environmental review behind the planned purchase was deeply flawed.

According to them, the Postal Service squandered its “historic opportunity” to convert its aging delivery fleet to zero-emission, electric vehicles, “a change that would alleviate pollution in overburdened communities and help tackle the climate crisis.”

Instead, the agency failed to adequately assess the impacts of its “Next Generation Delivery Vehicle Acquisitions” program, completing its environmental review only after it had signed a contract to procure the vehicles with Oshkosh Defense and paid millions of dollars.  

“In doing so, the Postal Service failed to comply with even the most basic requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA),” the mandatory regulatory process in question, the complaint read.

In its defense, the Postal Service said it had fully complied with all of its obligations as required under NEPA and “conducted a robust and thorough review.”

“We must make fiscally prudent decisions in the needed introduction of a new vehicle fleet,” wrote Postal Service spokesperson Kim Frum in an email. “We will continue to look for opportunities to increase the electrification of our delivery fleet in a responsible manner, consistent with our operating strategy, the deployment of appropriate infrastructure, and our financial condition, which we expect to continue to improve as we pursue our plan,” she added, according to the Associated Press.

All three groups are asking the courts to delay the purchase until a more thorough environmental analysis is completed.

The states that sued are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.