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OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today, co-leading a multistate coalition, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Postal Service challenging its flawed environmental analysis for its Next Generation Delivery Vehicle Acquisition program. The Postal Service has the largest civilian vehicle fleet in the world, consisting of over 212,000 vehicles, many of which are near the end of their useful lives. Today’s lawsuit alleges that the Postal Service’s plans to replace 90% of this fleet with fossil-fuel-powered, internal combustion engine vehicles fails to comply with even the National Environmental Policy Act’s (NEPA) most basic requirements and should be vacated.

“The Postal Service has a historic opportunity to invest in our planet and in our future. Instead, it is doubling down on outdated technologies that are bad for our environment and bad for our communities,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “Once this purchase goes through, we’ll be stuck with more than 100,000 new gas-guzzling vehicles on neighborhood streets, serving homes across our state and across the country, for the next 30 years. There won’t be a reset button. We’re going to court to make sure the Postal Service complies with the law and considers more environmentally friendly alternatives before it makes this decision.”

“The transition from fossil fuel to zero-emission vehicles is critical to achieving the San Francisco Bay Area’s ambitious air quality and greenhouse gas reduction targets,” said Damian Breen, senior deputy executive officer of operations/enforcement at the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. “The impact of the Postal Service’s purchasing decision would be felt for decades and have real and lasting health impacts on local communities – many of whom are communities of color that are already overburdened by air pollution. This decision cannot go unchallenged.”

Postal Service vehicles are on the road six days a week in every community in the United States. While these vehicles play a critical role in delivering the nation’s mail, they also emit significant amounts of greenhouse gases and other hazardous air pollutants. Many Postal Service facilities are located within environmental justice communities that are already overburdened by pollution. In California’s San Francisco Bay Area alone, at least two communities are notably impacted by Postal Service emissions. In West Oakland, the Postal Service operates a major mail distribution facility in a community already experiencing a heavy pollution burden from industrial facilities, an adjacent port, highways, and distribution centers. In San Francisco, the Postal Service’s main distribution center is located in the Bayview neighborhood, which is primarily a community of color and already overburdened by air pollution and the related negative health effects from multiple facilities operating in and around the neighborhood. As most of the Postal Service’s vehicles near the end of their useful lives, the Postal Service has the opportunity to convert its fleet to zero-emission, electric vehicles, a change that would reduce pollution in these overburdened communities and help tackle the climate crisis. 

Given the transformational nature of this change and its significant environmental and public health implications, the Postal Service was obligated to take a “hard look” at the impacts of its Next Generation Delivery Vehicle Acquisitions program under NEPA. Instead, the Postal Service chose a manufacturer, signed a contract, and put down a substantial down payment for new vehicles, before even publishing a cursory environmental review. This environmental review, which was later finalized, failed to consider and evaluate vehicle fleets with a larger mix of electric vehicles, instead opting to replace up to 165,000 of its delivery vehicles with ninety percent fossil-fuel powered vehicles over the next ten years. 

In the lawsuit, the coalition argues that the Postal Service’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) violated NEPA and should be set aside because: 

  • The Postal Service violated well-established legal precedent by signing contracts with a defense contractor to procure the vehicles before releasing its draft environmental review;
  • The Postal Service failed to consider reasonable alternatives to its proposed action and arbitrarily rejected any consideration of vehicle fleets with a greater percentage of electric vehicles;
  • The Postal Service’s environmental review failed to properly consider air quality, environmental justice, and climate impacts of purchasing a primarily gas powered fleet;
  • The Final EIS failed to ensure the scientific integrity of its analysis by relying on unfounded assumptions and failing to provide the source of the data it considered; and
  • The Final EIS is inconsistent with state policies to reduce fossil fuel consumption and to encourage the development and use of clean vehicles. 

Attorney General Bonta, along with New York Attorney General Letitia James, is joined by the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, as well as the City of New York and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, in filing the lawsuit. 

A copy of the petition can be found here.