U.S. lawmakers seek review of USPS next-generation delivery vehicle contract

FILE PHOTO: United States Postal Service (USPS) worker unloads packages in Manhattan during outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in York

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A group of five House Democratic lawmakers on Monday asked a federal watchdog to review if the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) complied with environmental regulations in its next-generation delivery vehicle contract.

House Oversight and Reform Committee chair Carolyn Maloney and other lawmakers asked the Postal Service Office of Inspector General to review USPS's plan to buy a new multibillion-dollar fleet of primarily gasoline-powered delivery vehicles from Oshkosh that has come under fire from the White House and Environmental Protection Agency.

"Given the potential environmental impact of the (delivery vehicle) contract, it is crucial that the Postal Service conduct a robust environmental analysis prior to moving forward," said the letter also signed by Representatives Gerald Connolly, Jared Huffman, Stephen Lynch and Brenda Lawrence.

USPS on Monday said its 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."

The lawmakers asked why USPS assumed "an upfront vehicle cost for an electric (delivery vehicle) that is substantially higher than other electric delivery vehicles being sold to private companies."

Last month, the White House and EPA urged USPS to reconsider its plan. The EPA asked USPS to hold a new hearing on its 10-year contract with Oshkosh initially worth $482 million that could be worth $6 billion or more to build up to 165,000 next-generation delivery vehicles.

In response, USPS said it had completed its environmental obligations and declined to hold a new hearing.

USPS's current plan calls for it to acquire at least 10% of EVs for the new fleet but could boost that with additional funding from Congress.

The EPA last month said USPS's proposed new gas-powered vehicles "are expected to achieve only 8.6 miles per gallon (mpg), barely improving over the decades-old long-life vehicles that achieve 8.2 mpg."

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Mark Porter)