House panel to investigate USPS plan to buy 8.6mpg trucks

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A House committee has opened an investigation into the US Postal Service’s $11.3 billion plan to buy mostly gas-powered mail delivery trucks, ordering the Postal Agency to turn over confidential records of their impact and their environmental costs.

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (DN.Y.), who chairs the powerful House Oversight and Reform Committee, told Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in a letter sent Wednesday night that her agency may have “based on erroneous assumptions” to justify the purchase of a fleet. in which only 1 in 10 new vehicles would run on cleaner electric power.

The Postal Service has the largest civilian fleet in the federal government and one of the largest in the world; crucial to President Biden’s plan to make the entire government fleet EV-powered by 2035.

The trucks the agency agreed to buy from Oshkosh Defense in February 2021 fall far short of White House climate goals and could cause lasting harm to the environment, federal regulators at the Postal Service have warned. The agency closely guarded records and data sources on how it selected the trucks after a seven-year competitive procurement process.

“The Oversight Committee strongly supports the purchase of electric vehicles for the Postal Service fleet, which will position the Postal Service as an environmental leader,” Maloney wrote, according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Washington Post. “An all-electric Postal Service fleet would reduce costs, increase reliability and improve the Postal Service’s ability to efficiently deliver mail and packages. Electrifying the next generation of Postal Service vehicles is also key to meeting the national goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fighting climate change.

The “Next Generation Delivery Vehicles” get 8.6 mpg with the air conditioning on, a slight improvement of 0.4 mpg over the 30-year-old trucks currently in use. Regulators estimate that NGDVs would emit about the same amount of Earth-warming carbon dioxide each year as 4.3 million passenger vehicles when they hit the streets in 2023.

The Postal Service has largely refused to voluntarily hand over truck records to lawmakers, for which it has already paid nearly $3.5 billion. Maloney’s letter sets the stage for a possible congressional subpoena on the mail agency over the summer, a step insiders say House Democrats have been eager to take for months.

Attorneys general from 16 states plus the District of Columbia and three prominent environmental activist groups filed three separate lawsuits against the Postal Service in April in hopes of blocking the truck contract. Complaints allege the agency grossly underestimated vehicle costs and negative ecological impact.

DeJoy said in a March interview that “the economics that my team has worked out” are strong and support his agency’s plan to buy, and that he supports buying more electric vehicles if Congress provides funding or if the Postal Service’s finances improve.

Maloney’s letter sets a May 25 deadline for the mail service to begin producing records. It also calls on the agency to redo its cost of ownership and environmental analyzes for procurement, develop a procurement plan that taps into its nearly $24 billion in cash to fund electric vehicles, and consult with Department of Energy and national agency labs to facilitate fleet electrification.

In March, the Postal Service ordered its first 50,000 vehicles from Oshkosh, 10,019 of which are electric. Although the EV percentage was higher than DeJoy had originally promised, the tally still held back Liberal lawmakers who had advocated a financial restructuring of the Postal Service weeks earlier in an effort to give it the flexibility to make big investments. .

“As we have reiterated throughout this process, our commitment to an electric fleet remains ambitious given the pressing vehicle and safety needs of our aging fleet as well as our fragile financial situation,” the company said. Postal Service spokeswoman Kimberly Frum in an emailed statement. “The men and women of the United States Postal Service have waited long enough for safer, cleaner vehicles. We are confident that we have made the best decision for the Postal Service in our delivery vehicle program given our delivery profile, unique service requirements, employee welfare, current infrastructure conditions and of the financial situation as, like the rest of the nation – we begin the long journey of reducing carbon emissions in our transportation operations.

“We will continue to be committed to making decisions based on our financial situation and what we can realistically achieve,” Frum added.

Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, but electric vehicles have yet to make significant inroads into consumer markets or delivery fleets. Proponents of electric vehicles hoped the Postal Service contract would provide a lift for electric automobiles, which account for about 5% of all new vehicle purchases.

Meanwhile, the courier’s competitors are rapidly stepping up their interest in electric vehicles. Amazon, whose founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post, has a nearly 20% stake in electric truck maker Rivian. UPS and FedEx have each increased their purchases of battery-powered delivery vehicles in recent years.

DeJoy said in March that it was not his agency’s responsibility to pursue fleet electrification.

“From my perspective, my job is to deliver mail and packages,” he said. “The nation’s fleet electrification policy is a mission I will support. But I would be remiss to spend all my money on it.

He continued: “I think the electrification of vehicles is a good thing. I am a fan. Right now when I went to place the order there are 10,019 specific routes that I know are a slam dunk that we will use them and it will work. And that’s how I make decisions as we move forward.

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