UAW, NRDC Challenge U.S. Postal Service’s Acquisition of New Delivery Fleet Under the NEPA

On Friday, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. (NRDC) and the International Union, United Automobile Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) filed a complaint in the Southern District of New York against the U.S. Postal Service and the Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, for violating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) during the acquisition of thousands of new mail trucks, dubbed Next Generation Delivery Vehicles.

The complaint explains that both the NRDC and UAW have an interest in contributing to the mitigation of climate change through the production and use of electric vehicles.

The plaintiffs purport that the actions giving rise to the present suit began in January 2015 when the Postal Service issued a request for information to begin the process of replacing its aging fleet of roughly 212,000 delivery vehicles. Following the information request, the complaint states that the Postal Service ordered and received prototypes based on manufacturers’ bids for internal combustion, hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles.

The complaint states that on February 23, 2021, the Postal Service announced that it had selected Oshkosh Defense for a ten-year contract to produce up to 165,000 new vehicles, beginning in 2023. The plaintiffs allege that the Postal service belatedly began evaluating the environmental impacts of the new vehicle acquisition and on August 26, 2021, issued a draft Environmental Impact Statement that would have the Postal Service purchase up to 90% internal combustion vehicles as the preferred alternative and a minimum of 10% electric vehicles over ten years.

Following the draft, Environmental Impact Statement, the plaintiffs, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other members of the public offered public comment arguing that the draft failed to consider the environmental effects of internal combustion vehicles while precluding meaningful electric vehicle alternatives. 

The complaint states that, despite these critiques, the Postal Service issued its final Environmental Impact Statement that made only minimal revisions to the draft and failed to meaningfully respond to substantive comments. Following the final draft, the EPA concluded that the Environmental Impact Statement “remained seriously deficient” and is “inconsistent with the requirements of NEPA.” Further, UAW submitted additional comments arguing that the Postal Service cannot lawfully refuse to consider impacts from the production of the vehicles the agency is causing to be built. Nonetheless, the Postal Service issued a Rules of Decision based on the final Environmental Impact Statement on February 23, 2022. 

The plaintiffs argue that the Postal Service’s decision is based on an unlawfully deficient environmental analysis and seek declaratory and injunctive relief for the Postal Service’s alleged violation of the NEPA, United States Postal Service Regulations and Council of Environmental Quality Regulations. The plaintiffs are represented by NRDC’s in-house counsel and Eubanks & Associates, PLLC