Democrats demand IG probe into USPS contract for new 'gas-guzzling' fleet

Democrats demand IG probe into USPS contract for new 'gas-guzzling' fleet
Sam LaRussa / Wikimedia Commons

Five U.S. House Democrats on Monday called for a federal investigation into the environmental impact of a U.S. Postal Service contract to buy new gas-powered delivery trucks, which has sparked fresh calls for firing embattled Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.

"We write to request that the Postal Service Office of Inspector General (OIG) initiate an investigation into the Postal Service's compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), particularly the filing of the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the next generation delivery vehicle (NGDV)," states the lawmakers' letter.

"The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the White House Council for Environmental Quality (CEQ), and numerous environmental stakeholders have raised concerns that the Postal Service did not meet its NEPA obligations during its contracting process for the NGDV," the letter notes. "These significant concerns warrant an investigation by the OIG."

The five Democrats pressuring USPS Inspector General Tammy Whitcomb to launch a probe are Reps. Gerry Connolly (Va.), Jared Huffman (CaIif.), Brenda Lawrence (Mich.), Stephen Lynch (Mass.), and Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

Their letter to Whitcomb highlights that the controversial contract with Oshkosh Defense could lead the USPS to acquire up to 165,000 vehicles over a decade—which conflicts with President Joe Biden's proposed transition to zero-emission government vehicles.

"The Oversight Committee strongly supports the purchase of electric vehicles for the Postal Service's fleet, which would significantly cut emissions and position the Postal Service as an environmental leader," says the letter. "Given the potential environmental impact of the NGDV contract, it is crucial that the Postal Service conduct a robust environmental analysis prior to moving forward."

"Postal vehicles serve a public purpose—helping to deliver the mail six days a week across the United States—and must do so in an environmentally sound manner," the letter continues. "Given the substantial public interest in this acquisition and the significant deficiencies in the EIS identified by EPA, it is critical that Congress understand whether the Postal Service properly met its statutory environmental obligations."

Concerns and criticism of DeJoy's plan have mounted over the past month, with opponents calling it "supervillain stuff" and renewing calls for the USPS board of governors to fire the scandal-plagued postmaster general, who was appointed during the Trump administration.

Connolly last week led dozens of lawmakers in unveiling the Green Postal Service Fleet Act, a bill that would block DeJoy's current contract for "gas-guzzling" trucks by requiring that at least 75% of new USPS vehicles are electric or otherwise emissions-free.

"Finalization of this contract is yet another willfully shortsighted decision by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy that will prevent the Postal Service from reaching its full 21st-century potential," Connolly said in a statement.

"In flagrant contradiction to President Biden's admirable and ambitious goal to electrify the federal fleet, USPS has tethered itself to a technology that is well on its way to obsolescence—striking a devastating blow to our climate, to our effort to lead the world in green technology, and to our beloved Postal Service," Connolly added. "This contract cannot move forward."

While the Senate this month passed Postal Service reform legislation with bipartisan support, that House-approved, DeJoy-backed bill—which Biden is expected to sign—did not address whether future delivery vehicles are required to be climate-friendly.

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