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The United States Postal Service is being sued by 16 states and the District of Columbia over its plan to purchase a fleet of gas-powered trucks.
The federal complaint alleges that the Postal Service (USPS) “did not properly evaluate several environmental impacts” of the decision to buy gas-powered vehicles, including “air quality, environmental justice, and climate harms.”
Earlier this year, USPS went ahead with a plan to order up to 165,000 new trucks. The plan would make “at least” 10 per cent of new vehicles electric, but did not commit to more than that, citing costs.
Transportation, much of which still relies on greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuels, is the largest source of emissions in the United States, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, making up 27 per cent of all emissions.
The world’s most authortative climate body, the IPCC, recently warned that the world must see emissions levels come down by 2025 to keep warming around 1.5 degrees C.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta called USPS’s decision a missed opportunity in statement announcing the lawsuit, adding that it would leave fossil-fuel burning vehicles on the road for decades.
The complaint argues that USPS violated the National Environmental Policy Act, a 1970 that makes branches of the federal government evaluate the environmental impacts of any action.
In addition to DC, the states were joined by the City of New York and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, a regional environmental agency in northern California.
The new gas-powered trucks, the complaint argues, will “adversely impact” the state and local governments “by continuing substantial and unnecessary emissions of air pollutants, including greenhouse gases; adversely affecting public health,” in addition to “undermining and increasing the costs” of mitigating these issues.
Kim Frum, a representative from USPS, told The Independent via email that the “Postal Service conducted a robust and thorough review and fully complied with all of our obligations under NEPA.”
Ms Frum added that USPS was committed to including electric vehicles despite their higher cost but needs to make “fiscally prudent decisions.”
“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.
USPS is currently chaired by Louis DeJoy, a former businessman who was appointed during the Trump administration.
The states in the lawsuit include California, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
Two similar complaints were filed yesterday as well. One was from the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, CleanAirNow KC and Earthjustice, all non-profit environmental groups. Another was by the non-profit National Resource Defense Council and the United Auto Workers, a labour group.