A leading House Democrat on Wednesday demanded the ouster of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy over his push to spend $11 billion on a new fleet of largely gasoline-powered USPS delivery trucks, a plan that flies in the face of President Joe Biden's proposed shift to zero-emission government vehicles.
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), chair of the House subcommittee that oversees the USPS, warned in a social media post late Wednesday that DeJoy is aiming to "spend billions on gas-powered vehicles despite clear goals set by President Biden and Congress to electrify the federal fleet."
"I want a full examination of this contract, and I am pursuing a legislative remedy," wrote Connolly. "But DeJoy has to go right now."
Last February, the DeJoy-led USPS awarded a 10-year contract to Oshkosh Defense—a Wisconsin-based manufacturing company—to produce up to 165,000 trucks, the largest effort in decades to replace the Postal Service's aging fleet. Oshkosh plans to produce the vehicles in South Carolina, a state with some of the most anti-union labor laws in the country.
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The lucrative contract—which Oshkosh won over Workhorse Group, an electric truck maker—drew scrutiny from lawmakers at the time it was awarded, and Connolly is demanding that Congress take a closer look given the significant climate implications.
Transportation represents the biggest single source of U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which Biden has pledged to cut in half by the end of the decade. Postal Service delivery trucks make up about a third of the federal government's vehicle fleet.
"The average age of the postal fleet is 30 years," Connolly told the New York Times in an interview Wednesday. "They're spewing pollution and they are guzzling gas. There is no question we have to replace the fleet, and it is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take electric vehicle technology to the next level with the second-largest vehicle fleet in America."
"If we miss this opportunity it sets back the whole thrust of the electric vehicle agenda," warned the Virginia Democrat warned, who argued that DeJoy's plan for new gas-powered trucks is an "enormous example" of why he should step down or be removed from his post.
"I would love for him to resign, and if he won't resign, I want the board of governors to fire him," said Connolly.
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As currently constituted, however, the USPS board does not appear willing to oust DeJoy, with former President Donald Trump's nominees outnumbering Biden's picks 5-3. Last month, Biden announced his nominees—one Democrat and one Republican—to replace two Trump-appointed members of the board.
Even if the latest Biden picks are confirmed by the Senate, it's not clear the board will have enough votes to remove DeJoy, a major Trump donor who has come under fire for slowing mail delivery and hiking prices.
DeJoy has previously dismissed calls for his resignation, telling lawmakers last February that he intends to remain head of the Postal Service for "a long time."
Shortly ahead of Connolly's comments, the Biden administration requested that DeJoy hold up the $11 billion truck contract, arguing that the Postal Service's environmental analysis of the deal was deeply flawed and incomplete, in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.
In a letter to the USPS on Wednesday, Biden's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) noted that—among other failures—"the Postal Service chose not to consider in detail even a single feasible alternative to its proposal that would be more environmentally protective, evaluating only alternatives the Postal Service itself considered to be infeasible."
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"The Postal Service's proposal as currently crafted represents a crucial lost opportunity to more rapidly reduce the carbon footprint of one of the largest government fleets in the world," the EPI argued. "A 10% commitment to clean vehicles, with virtually no fuel efficiency gains for the other 90% is plainly inconsistent with international, national, and many state GHG emissions reduction targets, as well as specific national policies to move with deliberate speed toward clean, zero-emitting vehicles."
If the USPS—which is independent of the executive branch—brushes off the Biden administration's concerns, environmental groups could have the option of suing to block the contract, the Washington Post noted Wednesday.
Adrian Martinez, an attorney for Earthjustice, told the Post that climate groups would have a good chance of winning in court, given the shoddiness of the Postal Service's environmental review.
"It is hard to predict what courts will do, but the Postal Service's work here is just so embarrassingly flimsy," Martinez said. "They don't reveal the source of the information for many of their conclusions, instead dismissing electrification outright."
In a blog post earlier this week, Martinez urged the Biden administration to "play hardball over this contract."
"The environmental analysis from the USPS is bad—almost eighth-grade science report bad—and misleading," Martinez argued. "Agencies like the EPA and the White House Council on Environmental Quality not only can, but have a moral obligation to push the postal service to do an analysis that is honest and lawful. They should avail themselves of every opportunity under bedrock environmental laws like National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Air Act in this fight for clean air and our climate."