EPA objects to US Postal Service plan to buy a new gas-powered delivery fleet

The Biden administration wants zero-emissions mail vehicles.

The US Postal Service's Next Gen Delivery Vehicle. (US Postal Service)

The Biden administration is determined to eliminate combustion engine vehicles from federal fleets, and it's not thrilled that one agency might be holding it back. According to The Washington Post, the Environmental Protection Agency and White House Council on Environmental Quality have sent letters to the US Postal Service urging it to rethink a proposal to mostly buy gas-powered next-gen delivery trucks in a project worth up to $11.3 billion. The current strategy is a "lost opportunity" to more drastically reduce the carbon footprint of one of the world's largest government fleets, EPA associate policy administrator Vicki Arroyo wrote.

Only 10 percent of the USPS' new trucks would be electric under the existing proposal, and the overall effort would only improve the fleet's fuel economy by 0.4MPG. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy previously claimed the Postal Service couldn't afford more electric mail vehicles, and has argued his agency needs to focus on basic infrastructure improvements over technology. The USPS is required by law to be self-sufficient, and can't simply request government funds.

There may be an uphill battle to make any changes. DeJoy has staunchly refused to alter the purchasing plan, and the USPS rejected California officials' January 28th request for a public hearing on the plans. The service also largely ignored EPA advice when it created the analysis guiding its plan. The environmental regulator accused the USPS of using "biased" estimates that preferred gas-based trucks. The mail institution reportedly assumed battery and gas prices would remain static even decades later, and that the existing charging infrastructure wouldn't grow. It further overestimated the emissions from plug-in vehicles, according to the EPA.

The Postal Service might be forced to change regardless. The EPA has the option of referring its disagreements to the White House Council on Environmental Quality, which can mediate disputes like this. The letters gave the USPS a last chance to voluntarily rethink its proposal before the Council stepped in, sources for The Post claimed. Environmental groups are also likely to sue if the gas-centric plan moves ahead, and the law firm Earthjustice told The Post the USPS might lose when its proposal often lacks supporting evidence. You may well see a transition toward mail-carrying EVs, even if the transition is particularly messy.