The U.S. Postal Service will start replacing its aging mail trucks with nearly all gasoline-powered vehicles built by Oshkosh Corp., despite pressure from the Biden administration to increase electric vehicle purchases.
The agency said Wednesday it cleared the final regulatory hurdle to placing orders for next-generation mail vehicles — and getting some of them on delivery routes next year — despite pushback from the Environmental Protection Agency.
The decision allows the Postal Service to proceed with placing the first order that will include at least 5,000 electric-powered vehicles, along with an undetermined number of gas-powered vehicles, Postal Service spokesperson Kim Frum said.
The USPS will get 165,000 new trucks over the next 10 years, with as much as 90% of the replacement vehicles powered by gasoline instead of electric-battery power.
Resisting pressure from Biden administration officials to increase electric vehicle purchases beyond its planned 10% baseline, the USPS rejected a bid from electric-vehicle manufacturer Workhorse Group Inc., and instead awarded the multibillion contract to Wisconsin military truck maker Oshkosh Corp.
"As we have reiterated throughout this process, our commitment to an electric fleet remains ambitious given the pressing vehicle and safety needs of our aging fleet as well as our fragile financial condition," USPS Chief Executive Officer Louis DeJoy said in a statement.
"As our financial position improves with the ongoing implementation of our 10-year plan, we will continue to pursue the acquisition of additional BEV [battery electric vehicles] as additional funding — from either internal or congressional sources — becomes available.”
The agency said its plan is the most feasible, given its financial condition, because the battery-electric option has a significantly higher total cost of ownership than its combustion-engine counterpart.
In Wednesday’s record of decision, the Postal Service emphasized that it has the flexibility to significantly boost the percentage of battery-powered trucks, should additional funding become available.
While the contract calls for at least 10% of the trucks to be electric vehicles, the agency has indicated its willingness to accelerate a transition to electric if it can be done in a way that is not "financially detrimental."
Bloomberg reports that the USPS is unlikely to have the last word on the matter, however. Environmental groups are preparing to immediately challenge the move in federal court.
The Biden administration has limited authority over the Postal Service, but federal courts have determined that the USPS is still required to abide by the National Environmental Policy Act, which mandates analysis of major policy decisions. Government leases sold to private companies have previously been invalidated by federal courts in the absence of that analysis.
The USPS "is playing a very high-stakes game" by "going against what the law requires," Adrian Martinez, an attorney with the environmental group Earthjustice, told Bloomberg prior to the announcement.
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