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(Updates with USPS statement, action by House panel, Republican criticism)
By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON, May 11 (Reuters) - A U.S. House of Representatives committee on Wednesday approved a bill that seeks to invalidate a U.S. Postal Service (USPS) environmental review conducted as part of a deal to buy 50,000 mostly gas-powered next-generation delivery vehicles.
House Oversight and Reform chair Carolyn Maloney said the bill would help USPS transition its "gas guzzling fleet to electric vehicles" and argued the USPS review that supported the purchases was faulty.
Critics of the USPS plan want the postal service to buy more zero-emission electric delivery trucks. The White House and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have unsuccessfully asked the USPS to reconsider the deal.
The bill would toss out the USPS environmental impact statement and compel it to conduct a new one. House Republican James Comer said the bill would cause a "reckless delay" in new USPS vehicles.
USPS in March placed an initial $2.98 billion order for 50,000 next-generation delivery vehicles from Oshkosh, and doubled its planned electric vehicle (EV) purchases from 5,000 to 10,019 by 2026.
USPS expects the new vehicles will begin appearing on carrier routes in late 2023. They will replace many 30-year-old vehicles without airbags or other safety features.
USPS said Wednesday the bill "potentially would have the effect of delaying our vehicle replacement program by a year or more, and substantially increasing the cost."
The bill "takes steps in exactly the wrong financial and operational direction," it said.
USPS has more than 230,000 vehicles, including 190,000 that deliver mail.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy told Reuters last month that USPS expects to receive about 5,000 vehicles in 2023 and about 21,000 a year after that, calling the order "a slam dunk," given its urgent vehicle needs.
"I have people out there that have trucks that are dangerous," DeJoy said.
He said in the near-term USPS needs gas-powered vehicles and said the purchase was "a very, very logical decision based on our math for our business."
USPS said in 2021 it could buy up to 165,000 vehicles from Oshkosh over 10 years but DeJoy told Reuters USPS considering various options for vehicle purchases after the initial 50,000.
Last month, 16 states and others filed suit seeking to block USPS's vehicle plan, arguing it failed to comply with environmental regulations.
DeJoy, a supporter of former President Donald Trump, was named as postmaster general in 2020 by the Postal Service's governing board. (Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Robert Birsel and Richard Pullin)