NEPA Challenges Loom as USPS Fleet Modernization Efforts Move Toward the Finish Line

February 13, 2024 by Roman Carlitti

A USPS letter carrier drives a Grumman LLV mail truck. Photo by Petr Kratchovil.

USPS’ decade-long effort to replace its antiquated vehicle fleet is threatened to be further delayed by multiple pending lawsuits challenging the agency’s compliance with NEPA.

From rural communities to bustling cities, one of the most ubiquitous sights on American streets is the white USPS mail truck with the agency’s quintessential eagle logo. The U.S. Government operates the largest vehicle fleet in the world, and USPS’ fleet is the largest within the Federal Government.[1] The Grumman Long Life Vehicle (“LLV”) makes up the backbone of USPS’ fleet,[2] facilitating mail transportation to the majority of the agency’s 163 million delivery locations.[3] Purchased between 1987 to 1994,[4] the fleet’s antiquated trucks do not have air-conditioning, airbags, or ABS brakes,[5] and average only 8.2 miles per gallon.[6] In addition, hundreds of thousands of miles of overuse past the trucks’ projected twenty-four year life span have led to several instances of the vehicles catching fire, endangering letter carriers’ safety.[7] The need to replace these vehicles has been widely recognized, presenting an opportunity to transition USPS’ fleet to more climate-friendly vehicles.[8]

USPS began testing and purchasing next generation vehicles in July 2014 and awarded a contract to Oshkosh Defense in February 2021.[9] USPS’ initial plan heavily relied on internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, with battery electric vehicles (“BEVs”) comprising just 10% of the new fleet.[10] This decision was quickly met with significant pushback from environmental groups, resulting in an extended environmental impact review and several lawsuits alleging National Environmental Protection Act (“NEPA”) violations.[11]

NEPA requires federal agencies to produce an environmental impact statement (“EIS”) on “major federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.”[12] An EIS must include a detailed statement of the proposed agency action’s environmental effects, describe any irreversible commitments of federal resources involved in the proposed action, and provide alternative actions the agency could take.[13] After a final EIS is published, a Record of Decision (“ROD”) is subsequently published, which explains the agency’s final decision on the proposed action, describes the alternative actions considered, and discusses plans for mitigation if necessary.[14] USPS is subject to NEPA as an “independent establishment of the executive branch.”[15]

In February 2021, USPS announced its contract award to Oshkosh Defense for a new fleet without first publishing an EIS and ROD.[16] A month later, USPS then initiated the EIS process for its fleet purchase, published a final EIS in January 2022, and published the first ROD in March 2022, confirming its intent to buy a fleet consisting of ten-percent BEVs.[17]A few days after the first ROD, USPS announced it was increasing the percentage of BEVs to twenty percent.[18]

In April 2022, lawsuits were filed in the Northern District of California against USPS and Postmaster General DeJoy by CleanAirNow, Center for Biological Diversity, and Sierra Club in CleanAirNow v. DeJoy[19] and seventeen states and two cities in State of California v. U.S. Postal Service.[20] Both sets of plaintiffs assert four causes of action under NEPA:[21]

  1. USPS unlawfully made an irreversible commitment of resources by awarding a contract six months before a draft EIS was published.
  2. USPS’ proposed reasonable alternatives are inadequate as they do not include higher percentages of BEVs.
  3. USPS did not take a “hard look” at the environmental consequences of its proposed action such as impacts to air quality, environmental justice, and climate.
  4. USPS’ NEPA documentation relied on unsupported assumptions and unknown methodologies to justify its proposed action.

The State plaintiffs additionally allege that USPS’ NEPA documentation did not address the conflict between its proposed action and numerous state laws and initiatives to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel consumption to mitigate the consequences of global climate change and to electrify the transportation sector.”[22] USPS initiated a supplemental EIS in June 2022, and the Northern District of California granted a stay across all lawsuits while the Supplemental EIS was being developed.[23]

In December 2022, USPS announced an augmented $9.6-billion-dollar investment over the next five years to purchase electric vehicles, with $3 billion provided by the Inflation Reduction Act.[24] With a new source of capital, USPS planned to purchase BEVs for seventy-five percent of its new fleet and committed to acquire only BEVs starting in 2026.[25] In February 2023, USPS further announced that in addition to the Oshkosh Defense vehicles, it would purchase 9,250 Ford E-Transit BEVs.[26] Plaintiffs again note in a July 2023 Joint Status Report that a major USPS purchase contract was awarded before completing an EIS and ROD in violation of NEPA.[27] The final supplemental EIS was not published until September 2023, and the second ROD was subsequently published in December 2023, finalizing USPS’ plan to purchase a mixed fleet of 106,000 vehicles, however, consisting of only sixty-two percent BEVs.[28]

Now that the second ROD is published and an expected delivery of the next generation of vehicles is set for June 2024, litigation will likely resume.[29] Both sets of plaintiffs are asking the court to issue a declaratory judgment that USPS violated NEPA during the EIS process, vacate USPS’ EIS and ROD until USPS complies with NEPA, and enjoin USPS from acquiring any vehicles.[30] On its face, USPS did prematurely award two large purchase contracts before publishing an EIS and ROD, opening the agency to significant liability and calling into question the extent USPS engaged in meaningful environmental cost-benefit analysis before awarding vehicle contracts. While the pending environmental stakeholder suits could push USPS to further increase their contract percentages of BEVs and markedly increase the sustainability of the largest fleet of U.S. Government vehicles, further delay, especially another multi-year EIS, would force USPS to continue using the Grumman LLV. It is imperative that USPS works to expeditiously resolve its pending lawsuits, comply with NEPA, and move forward with a sustainable, BEV-based fleet.

[1] Biden-⁠Harris Administration Announces Historic Investment to Electrify U.S. Postal Service Fleet, The White House Dec. 20, 2022),

[2] U.S. Dep’t of Energy, Nation’s Largest Alternative Fuel Fleet Delivers the Goods for the U.S. Postal Service 1 (1997),

[3] The White House, supra note 1.

[4] U.S. Dep’t of Energy, supra note 2.

[5] Matt Robinson, Behold: The New US Postal Van And Its Giant Windscreen, Car Throttle (Feb. 24, 2021),

[6] United States Postal Service, Final Environmental Impact Statement Next Generation Delivery Vehicle Acquisitions G-2 (2021),

[7] See Jacob Bogage, USPS trucks don’t have air bags or air conditioning. They get 10 mpg. And they were revolutionary., The Seattle Times(June 8, 2021, 9:30 pm),

[8] See e.g., The White House, supra note 1.

[9] Focus on Next Generation Delivery Vehicles, United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General (Sept. 27, 2023), [hereinafter USPS OIG]; Steve Hutkins, USPS issues final environmental impact statement on new delivery fleet, lawsuits to resume shortly, Save the Post Office (Oct. 17, 2023),

[10] Hutkins, supra note 9.

[11] Steve Hutkins, USPS finalizes environmental review on new fleet, tests out a new vehicle, Save the Post Office (Dec. 9, 2023),

[12] 42 U.S.C. § 4332(C).

[13] Id.

[14] National Environmental Policy Act Review Process, Environmental Protection Agency (Oct. 3, 2023),

[15] 39 U.S.C. § 201.

[16] USPS OIG, supra note 9.

[17] Hutkins, supra note 11; Joint Case Management Statement, State of California v. U.S. Postal Service, No. 3:22-cv-02583 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 11, 2023), ECF No. 140.

[18] Hutkins, supra note 11.

[19] Complaint, CleanAirNow v. DeJoy, 3:22-cv-02576 (N.D. Cal. April 28, 2022), ECF No. 1.

[20] Complaint, State of California v. U.S. Postal Service, No. 3:22-cv-02583 (N.D. Cal. April 28,2022), ECF No. 1.

[21] Joint Case Management Statement, supra note 17.

[22] Id.

[23] USPS OIG, supra note 9; Joint Case Management Statement, supra note 17.

[24] The White House, supra note 1.

[25] Id.

[26] Albert Ruiz, USPS Moves Forward with Awards to Modernize and Electrify the Nation’s Largest Federal Fleet, United States Postal Service(Feb. 28, 2023),

[27] Status Report, State of California v. U.S. Postal Service, No. 3:22-cv-02583 (N.D. Cal. July 31, 2023), ECF No. 133.

[28] Hutkins, supra note 11.

[29] USPS OIG, supra note 9.

[30] Joint Case Management Statement, supra note 17.