WASHINGTON — A group of House Democrats on Monday called for an investigation into a decision by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to buy up to 165,000 gas-powered mail trucks despite objections from the Biden administration that the contract for billions of dollars would undermine the country’s climate goals.
The contract, worth up to $6 billion over 10 years, would be the Postal Service’s first large-scale vehicle purchase in three decades.
In a letter to U.S. Postal Service Inspector General Tammy Whitcomb, lawmakers questioned whether the Postal Service had complied with a law requiring environmental reviews of major federal actions.
The Postal Service estimated the new vehicles would get 29.9 miles per gallon. A separate analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency found the vehicles could achieve less than half that: just 14.7 miles per gallon. And with the air conditioning on, the new trucks would only get 8.6 miles per gallon, the EPA said.
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The EPA said the review did not consider any feasible alternatives to gasoline-powered vehicles and that the Postal Service issued a contract for the vehicles before it even completed its flawed review.
Carolyn Maloney, chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, and other Democrats on the panel asked Ms. Whitcomb to determine whether the Postal Service had made “inaccurate or unproven assumptions” about the environmental impact of the combustion engine vehicles, in particular by underestimating their greenhouse effect. gas emission.
“Postal vehicles serve a public purpose — to help deliver mail six days a week across the United States — and should do so in an environmentally responsible manner,” the lawmakers wrote.
President Biden has ordered all federal agencies to phase out the purchase of gas-powered vehicles and buy only zero-emission cars and trucks by 2035 as part of his program to accelerate the transition from fuels fossil fuels and to combat climate change. The Postal Service, however, is an independent agency that is not bound by the administration’s climate rules.
The Postal Service has over 231,000 vehicles, one of the largest civilian fleets in the world. The distinctive white, red and blue trucks travel the country from congested cities to quiet rural towns. An all-electric fleet would not only provide environmental benefits and help an emerging manufacturing sector, but would serve as a powerful symbol of an administration determined to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels.
The Postal Service argued that it could not afford an all-electric fleet and that 10% of new trucks would be electric while 90% would be gasoline.
Postal Service spokeswoman Sue Brennan said in a statement that the agency is committed to electrifying its fleet and said it will “continue to pursue the acquisition” of additional electric vehicles as its situation improves. financial will improve.
The Build Back Better Act, the centerpiece of Mr. Biden’s legislative agenda, includes about $6 billion to help the Postal Service pay for electric vehicles and charging stations. This bill is stalled in Congress.
Environmental groups and other government agencies have called the Postal Service’s decision flawed, saying it’s based on unrealistic assumptions — like gasoline at $2.19 a gallon. That’s well below the average gas price of $4.33 Americans are paying following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but it’s also well below the average price at the pump. before the war.
Congress earlier this month approved a $107 billion financial overhaul of the Postal Service, and it is currently awaiting Mr. Biden’s signature. Neither the House version nor the Senate version, both of which passed with broad bipartisan support, included amendments that would force a change in the agency’s trucking contract.