Sent by email to: NEPA@USPS.gov
April 5, 2021
Mr. Davon Collins
United States Postal Service
475 L’Enfant Plaza SW
Washington, DC 20260–6201
Subject: Comments on United States Postal Service’s March 4, 2021 Notice of Intent to Prepare Environmental Impact Statement for Purchase of up to 165,000 Next Generation Delivery Vehicles, and Request to Revoke Contract Pending NEPA Compliance
Dear Mr. Collins:
These comments are submitted on behalf of the members and staff of the undersigned organizations.
Our members are adversely affected by climate change caused by the emission of Greenhouse gases (GHG) and by breathing air pollution emitted from USPS delivery vehicles. Our members seek to protect themselves and their families from the devastating effects of a warming climate and air pollution that contributes to premature death and disease in America. We ask the USPS to help restore a healthful air supply and build an equitable, sustainable future for our families by replacing the current fleet of delivery vehicles with zero emission vehicles.
In response to the Notice of Intent referred to above, we submit 1) the following comment on the scope of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that you intend to prepare, and 2) a request that the contract recently awarded to Oshkosh Defense be revoked pending completion of the NEPA process.
- The award of the purchase contract to Oshkosh Defense before completion of an Environmental Impact Statement violates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and is Void ab initio.
The U.S. Postal Service announced that it has issued a $482 million contract to Oshkosh Defense to —
finalize the production design of the Next Generation Delivery Vehicle (NGDV) — a purpose-built, right-hand-drive vehicle for mail and package delivery — and will assemble 50,000 to 165,000 of them over 10 years. The vehicles will be equipped with either fuel-efficient internal combustion engines or battery electric powertrains and can be retrofitted to keep pace with advances in electric vehicle technologies. The initial investment includes plant tooling and build-out for the U.S. manufacturing facility where final vehicle assembly will occur.
The first NGDVs are estimated to appear on carrier routes in 2023.
https://about.usps.com/newsroom/national-releases/2021/0223-multi-billion-dollar-modernization-of postal-delivery-vehicle-fleet.htm (accessed 3/29/21).
In an Audit Report by the Inspector General for the U.S. Postal Service, the public is informed that the new delivery vehicle is expected to remain in service for 24 years, that development of the new delivery
vehicle design began in 2015, and that production is planned to commence in 2022.1 But nowhere in the Postal Service announcement or the Audit Report is there any discussion of how options for zero emission power trains for the new delivery vehicle were considered or evaluated and tested as part of the project development process. Apparently, the role of battery electric vehicles or other zero emission power sources were not included in the project design or production plan.
In its March 4, 2021 Notice of Intent (NOI) to Prepare Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), the USPS states that it has not yet decided on the mix of powertrain for the new delivery vehicles and will evaluate the environmental impacts of 3 alternative powertrains for the vehicles: (1) a mix of internal combustion and battery electric powertrains; (2) existing “commercial off the shelf” vehicles; and (3) no action. Yet USPS News announced on February 23, 2021 that the USPS has already awarded the contract for the delivery vehicles to Oshkosh Defense, and that the contract includes delivery of thousands of vehicles by 2023.
NEPA requires that before any agency takes an action that will have a significant impact on the human environment, it must first complete the NEPA process. 42 U.S.C. §4332. The NEPA process includes 1) preparation of an EIS describing the significant environmental impacts of the project, and the alternatives considered to enhance and restore the environment or avoid or minimize adverse environmental impacts, and 2) issuance of a Record of Decision that includes an explanation for the alternative selected. 40 CFR Parts 1500-1508.
Applicable regulations implementing NEPA prohibit any agency from making irreversible commitments of resources before it completes an adequate EIS for consideration by the decisionmaker and citizens. NEPA rules specifically direct agencies to “ensure that environmental information is available to public officials and citizens before decisions are made and before actions are taken.” 40 CFR §1500.1(b). “Agencies shall not commit resources prejudicing selection of alternatives before making a final decision.” 40 CFR §1502.2(f). The final decision must be based on an EIS that “present[s] the environmental impacts of the proposal and the alternatives in comparative form, thus sharply defining the issues and providing a clear basis for choice among options by the decisionmaker and the public.” 40 CFR §1502.14. Agency decisionmaking procedures “shall include … (d) requiring that relevant environmental documents, comments and responses accompany the proposal through existing agency review processes so that agency officials use the statement in making decisions.” 40 CFR §1505.1. “At the time of its decision, … each agency shall prepare a concise record of decision [that] … (b) identif[ies] all alternatives considered by the agency in reaching its decision….” 40 CFR §1505.3. “Until an agency issues a record of decision [ROD] …, no action concerning the proposal shall be taken which would: (1) have an adverse environmental impact; or (2) limit the choice of reasonable alternatives.” 40 CFR §1506.1(a). “No decision on the proposed action shall be made or recorded under 1505.2 by a Federal agency until … (2) Thirty (30) days after publication [in the Federal Register] of the notice described in paragraph (a) of this section for a final environmental impact statement.” 40 CFR §1506.10(b).
With respect to the USPS decision to issue a contract to Oshkosh Defense, none of these statutory or regulatory requirements were satisfied. No EIS was prepared before the decision was made. Before a contract was issued, an EIS should have been prepared for the decisionmaker describing the
1 Delivery Vehicle Acquisition Strategy, Audit Report (Office of Inspector General, August 2020) https://www.uspsoig.gov/sites/default/files/document-library-files/2020/19-002-R20.pdf (downloaded 3/29/21).
environmental impacts of vehicles powered by internal combustion engines burning petroleum fuels, including but not limited to the impacts of their emissions on climate warming and its consequences, urban smog, fine particles, toxic air pollutants and their impact on public health, and describing the climate, air pollution, public health and other environmental benefits zero emission vehicle alternatives would provide. No Record of Decision was adopted explaining the reasons for the choice of alternatives after an EIS was issued, and no notice of a final EIS was published in the Federal Register.
Therefore, it was unlawful in violation of NEPA and applicable implementing rules to enter into this contract to the extent that the award of this contract includes a commitment to purchase vehicles with internal combustion power trains fueled by petroleum fuels without first completing an adequate EIS to comply with NEPA and applicable procedures. An unlawful contract must be reversed pending completion of an EIS. We request that the USPS acknowledge that the contract is void ab initio, and inform bidders and the public that it will reissue contract criteria and RFPs, and reopen bidding after completion of a final EIS, issuance of a ROD and publication of notice in the Federal Register as required by law.
If the award of the purchase contract to Oshkosh Defense does not commit the Postal Service to purchase vehicles with internal combustion power trains, but leaves open the selection of the power train for all delivery vehicle purchases, including zero emission options, then the U.S. Postal Service must not make irreversible commitments of resources, such as amending the contract or issuing purchase orders for internal combustion power trains under the contract, prior to completion of the NEPA process.
- The Scope of the Proposed EIS as described in the NOI will Not Provide an Adequate EIS that Satisfies NEPA Requirements Because it Fails to Include an All Zero Emission Fleet Alternative.
The Notice of Intent describes the proposed action and the scope of the EIS as–
the purchase over 10 years of 50,000 to 165,000 purpose-built, right-hand drive vehicles—the Next Generation Delivery Vehicle (NGDV)—to replace existing delivery vehicles nationwide that are approaching the end of their service life. While the Postal Service has not yet determined the precise mix of the powertrains in the new vehicles to be purchased, current plans are for the new vehicle purchases to consist of a mix of internal combustion engine and battery electric powertrains; the purchases will also be designed to be capable of retrofits to keep pace with advances in electric vehicle technologies. The EIS will evaluate the environmental impacts of the purchase and operation of the NGDV, as well as a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) vehicle alternative and a ‘‘no action’’ alternative.
The U.S. Postal Service … intent … to prepare an EIS to evaluate the environmental impacts of the proposed action versus a COTS vehicle alternative and a ‘‘no action’’ alternative. The EIS will consider the physical, biological, cultural, and socioeconomic environments.
86 Fed. Reg. 12715 (March 4, 2021).
Commenters object to the narrow scope of the intended EIS because it fails to include an all zero emission vehicle replacement fleet as a “reasonable alternative” as required by 40 CFR §1502.14(a), and its failure to include direct and indirect impacts of the decision on Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate warming and on air pollution and public health pursuant to 40 CFR §§ 1502.16 and 1508.27(b)(2).
- GHG and Air Pollutants Emitted from U.S. Postal Service Delivery Fleet will Have a Significant Impact on the Human Environment.
NEPA Section 101(a) requires the use of “all practicable means and measures…” to “create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony…” At a minimum, this directive requires that the EIS address how the U.S. Postal Service can invest in a delivery fleet that contributes to creating a stable climate, and protecting public health by eliminating the emission of harmful air pollution.
The NOI does not describe the scope of the intended EIS as including any discussion of the environmental, public health and socioeconomic impacts expected from emissions of GHG or other air pollutants from the replacement fleet of U.S. Postal Service delivery vehicles. The failure to include estimates of emissions of these pollutants from the fleet of new vehicles over the life of the replacement fleet, and the likely direct impacts on climate warming, air pollution and public health caused by adding GHGs to the atmosphere and exposure to harmful pollution in the ambient air will make the EIS inadequate. In addition, the failure to consider the indirect impacts associated with the extraction, refining and transport of the total tons of petroleum fuels expected to be used to power a fleet of internal combustion engines over the 24-year life of the replacement fleet will also make the EIS inadequate. These impacts must be compared with the climate, environmental, public health and socioeconomic benefits of a fleet powered by battery electric power trains before making a final decision to issue a contract for vehicle production.
The fact that the replacement fleet will have less emissions than the existing fleet and reduce the fleet’s impacts does not satisfy the requirement to consider a zero emission alternative. The U.S. Postal Service “shall to the fullest extent possible: (f) use all practicable means, consistent with the requirements of the Act and other considerations of national policy, to restore and enhance the quality of the human environment and avoid or minimize any possible adverse effects of their actions upon the quality of the human environment.” 40 CFR §1500.2 [emphasis added]. “A significant effect may exist even if the Federal agency believes that on balance the effect may be beneficial.” 40 CFR §1508.27(b)(1).
- Climate Impacts.
The U.S. Postal Service must prepare an EIS that considers how it will implement the policy of the United States announced by President Biden in his Executive Order addressing climate.
[W]e face a climate crisis that threatens our people and communities, public health and economy, and, starkly, our ability to live on planet Earth. Despite the peril that is already evident, there is promise in the solutions — opportunities to create well-paying union jobs to build a modern and sustainable infrastructure, deliver an equitable, clean energy future, and put the United States on a path to achieve net-zero emissions, economy-wide, by no later than 2050. 2 [Emphasis added].
The President’s call for a zero emissions economy is founded on the best available climate science showing that zero emissions must be achieved to stabilize the climate and prevent a runaway climate disaster.
2 Executive Order to Tackle Climate Change, Section 201 (January 27, 2021).
The best, most comprehensive, credible and reliable source of scientific information and analysis for understanding the global climate regime, and how changes in GHG emissions are likely to change that regime, are the reports published by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC’s October 2018 report to the COP3 in response to the request from world leaders at the Paris Conference establishes the emissions targets that MUST be met to have a 50/50 chance of avoiding overshoot beyond 1.5o C above the pre-industrial baseline. The IPPC analysis demonstrates that climate stability can be achieved only by reducing GHG emissions to zero.
To stabilize global temperature at any level, ‘net’ CO2 emissions would need to be reduced to zero. This means the amount of CO2 entering the atmosphere must equal the amount that is removed. Achieving a balance between CO2 ‘sources’ and ‘sinks’ is often referred to as ‘net zero’ emissions or ‘carbon neutrality’.4
A stable climate regime at any level cannot be achieved by reducing only some emissions, such as achieving zero emission for only a part of the U.S. Postal Service delivery fleet. If GHG emissions are reduced by only 80% by 2050, the global mean temperature will necessarily rise well above 1.5o C. Based on the IPCC’s 2018 analysis, to stabilize the climate at 1.5o C, GHG emissions must reach ‘net zero’ or ‘carbon neutrality’ by 2050.
Limiting warming to 1.5°C implies reaching net zero CO2 emissions globally around 2050 and concurrent deep reductions in emissions of non-CO2 forcers, particularly methane (high confidence). Such mitigation pathways are characterized by energy-demand reductions, decarbonization of electricity and other fuels, electrification of energy end use, deep reductions in agricultural emissions, and some form of CDR [carbon dioxide reduction] with carbon storage on land or sequestration in geological reservoirs.5
Zero emissions must be achieved sooner or later to stabilize the climate. The more GHG emissions that are added to the atmosphere before zero emissions are achieved, the warmer the global mean temperature will become, and the more devastation will be suffered by the human environment. To minimize the destruction, losses and deaths associated with warmer climate effects, sources of GHG emissions, such as the Postal Service fleet, should be transformed to achieve zero emissions as soon as possible, but not later than 2050 to optimize the possibility of avoiding overshoot beyond 1.5o C.
The Energy Information Administration reported that the transportation sector of our economy contributes 37% of total U.S. CO2 emissions in 2019. Transportation CO2 emissions have been rising by nearly 3% annually for the last 5 years. The U.S. cannot achieve President Biden’s zero emissions goal across the economy without replacing internal combustion engines in the transport sector with zero emission technologies.
If powered by petroleum fuels, the large size of the U.S. Postal Service fleet, driven millions of miles daily, burning hundreds of thousands of tons of petroleum fuels in a fleet that will be produced and introduced into service between 2023 and 2033 to remain in service for at least 24 years until the 2050s, will emit millions of Metric tons of CO2 from burning those fuels that will directly foreclose the ability of the U.S. to achieve zero emissions from the transport sector by 2050. Whether the climate can be stabilized at all, and whether it will be stabilized at 1.5o C or at some hotter global temperature will be
3 Global Warming of 1.5o C, available at https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/.
4 Global Warming of 1.5o C, Chapter 2, FAQs.
5Id., Exec, Summary.
influenced by the decision that the U.S. Postal Service makes now regarding the continued reliance on petroleum fuels as the source of energy for its delivery fleet. These impacts of your decision must be disclosed in an EIS and taken into account before a contract to build the vehicles is executed.
- Air Pollution and Public Health Impacts.
The combustion of carbon fuels in internal combustion engines that produce CO2 will also emit a complex array of harmful pollutants that U.S. EPA has found cause deadly and debilitating effects on human health, including premature death, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, impaired fetal development, low birthweight babies, autism, childhood asthma, impaired lung development, and impaired cognitive function among children and adults.
The zero emission alternatives needed to stabilize the climate and prevent the accelerated worsening of the adverse effects on human health from a hotter climate will also provide other substantial public health benefits. The most important health benefits will flow from eliminating or minimizing the exposures of over one hundred and thirty million Americans to life-shortening air pollutants that violate national air quality standards by not burning carbon fuels. Other health benefits will be achieved by not poisoning the air with toxic pollutants emitted from vehicles, oil and gas well fields, oil refineries and fuel transport terminals, and by not poisoning water supplies now being contaminated by fracking fluids and ruptured oil pipelines.
U.S. Postal Service delivery vehicles operate in all of the 201 urban counties designated by U.S. EPA as nonattainment for the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for ozone (also known as smog), or particulate matter smaller than 2.5 µm in diameter (“fine particles” regulated as PM2.5), or both.6 Postal Service delivery vehicles are a significant contributor to the air pollutants emitted from mobile sources in these nonattainment areas. The EIS must quantify the millions of miles driven daily by USPS vehicles in these nonattainment areas, estimate the emissions of ozone, PM2.5 precursors and toxic air pollutants from the current fleet (i.e., no action alternative), and model the air quality benefits of eliminating these emissions by replacing the current fleet with zero emission vehicles.
Ample evidence is available from the health effects literature to estimate the health benefits from improving regional air quality in nonattainment areas, including pre-mature deaths, hospitalizations, childhood asthma cases and other adverse health outcomes that can be avoided if the U.S. Postal Service invests the $5 to $6 billion it plans to spend on delivery fleet replacement in purchasing and operating a fleet of zero emission delivery vehicles.
The latest health effects research estimates that air pollution from burning carbon was expected to take an estimated 242,000 lives in 2020 assuming normal economic activity not slowed by the COVID pandemic.7 Earlier work by EPA staff using mortality risk factors derived from health effects research
6 As of October 31, 2019, EPA listed all or a portion of 201 counties where ozone levels violate the current (2015) ozone national ambient air quality standard. See https://www3.epa.gov/airquality/greenbook/jncty.html (referenced Nov. 18, 2019). These ozone non-attainment counties included 120.5 million residents in 2010, 39% of all Americans. By 2019, the exposed populations in these areas increased by an estimated 10% to 132 million. Data from 2019 are referenced because air quality in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic will not likely be representative of future air quality when normal economic activity resumes.
7See testimony “Health and Economic Benefits of a 2ºC Climate Policy,” Appendix: Methods, Premature Mortality, p. 10; presented by Dr. Drew Shindell, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, to the House of Representatives, Oversight Committee (August 5, 2020): https://nicholas.duke.edu/sites/default/files/documents/Shindell_Testimony_July2020_final.pdf.
Shindell uses the available in 2016 estimated 110,000 deaths annually.8 As a proximate cause of death, air pollution from fossil fuel combustion would rank as the third-leading cause of death in the U.S. contributing to eight of the top ten causes—heart disease; cancer; chronic lower respiratory diseases; stroke (cerebrovascular diseases); Alzheimer’s disease; diabetes; influenza and pneumonia; and nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis.9 Shindell estimates that ending the combustion of carbon fuels will save 1.4 million American lives between now and 2040.
The EPA staff research estimated that roughly 20% of the mortality attributed to carbon combustion is caused by emissions from on-road vehicle emissions. In the last three decades the average incidence of asthma among children has increased from 1 in 15 to 1 in 10 children, with higher rates among children of color and in polluted neighborhoods near refineries, power plants or major highways. Mortality from cardiovascular disease is as much as 50% higher in neighborhoods near highways compared to urban neighborhoods not near a major highway. Using available relative risk factors for the pollutants emitted from Postal Service vehicles, credible estimates of mortality and morbidity attributable to emissions from the Postal Service fleet can be derived.
- Postal Service Fleet Emissions Contribution to Regional Pollutant Exposures. U.S. EPA has determined that multiple pollutants emitted from vehicles burning petroleum fuels contribute to childhood asthma. In its review of the health effects research to set NAAQS for PM2.5, NO2 and ozone, EPA cited studies demonstrating a causal relationship between exposure to PM2.5 and childhood asthma: “road dust and traffic sources of PM have been found to be associated with increased respiratory symptoms in asthmatic children and decreased PEF in asthmatic adults.” 10
EPA also found a causal relationship between exposure to NO2 and childhood hospitalization for asthma:
Epidemiologic evidence exists for positive associations of short-term ambient NO2 concentrations below the current  NAAQS level with increased numbers of ED visits and hospital admissions for respiratory causes, especially asthma. These associations are particularly consistent among children and older adults (65+ years) when all respiratory outcomes are analyzed together, and among children and subjects of all ages for asthma admissions.” 11
Commenting on EPA’s proposed NAAQS for ozone based on findings of a strong causal relationship between ozone and childhood asthma, EPA’s Clean Air Science Advisory Committee found that every day when ozone concentrations reach the level of the national ambient air quality standard (70 ppb), 8 to 20% of all children will experience a reduction in lung function deemed adverse to the health of a child with asthma. When ozone concentrations reach 75 ppb, only 5 ppb above the standard, from 11% to 22% of all school aged children will experience at least one such event, and 1 to 6% of children will experience such adverse health events on 6 or more days.12
most recent risk factors for modeling the mortality caused by exposure to fine particles (soot) and ozone (smog) updating the earlier work of EPA staff.
8 Kenneth Davidson, et al., 2020 Environ. Res. Lett. 15 075009.
9 National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Leading Causes of Death, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm.
11 Integrated Science Assessment for Oxides of Nitrogen – Health Criteria (US EPA, July 2008), p. 5-11. 12“CASAC Review of the EPA’s Second Draft Policy Assessment for the Review of the Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards,” letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy (June 26, 2014), 14.
Both the percentage of children experiencing harmful effects and the number of days when exposures produce harmful effects continue to increase as daily ozone concentrations are elevated further above the level of the NAAQS. In most nonattainment cities, ozone levels routinely exceed 80 ppb on high pollution days, and in the worst polluted areas 8 hour concentrations reach 110 ppb.
Nearly three million children with asthma are exposed to elevated ozone levels in ozone nonattainment areas. The U.S. population exposed to levels of ozone elevated above the NAAQS in 201 EPA-designated nonattainment counties is currently an estimated 132 million. As of 2018, the U.S. Census estimates that 22.4% of the U.S. population are under 18 years of age.13 The childhood population exposed to elevated ozone in ozone nonattainment areas is roughly (132 x .224) 29.5 million. The CDC reports that “About 1
in 10 of all children have asthma (± 2.95 million in nonattainment areas), and about 1 in 6 (17%) of non Hispanic black children had asthma in 2009.” Given the higher incidence of asthma in ozone nonattainment areas and in predominantly Black neighborhoods and the disproportionate concentration of Black populations in nonattainment counties, the national cohort of children with asthma exposed to elevated ozone is likely more than 3 million.
Eliminating emissions of ozone precursors from the Postal Service fleet will reduce the number of violation days in most nonattainment areas, help marginal nonattainment areas attain the NAAQS, and reduce the peak concentrations to which the public is exposed on high pollution days. Less pollution exposure will save lives, protect some children from developing asthma, and reduce the number of episodes experienced by children with asthma that require urgent or emergency care, require isolation indoors and contribute to missed school days. The questions to be answered in an EIS must include: if USPS were to invest in a zero emission fleet, how much would ozone concentrations be reduced on high pollution days? How many cases of childhood asthma can be avoided? How many children will be protected from asthma attacks on high pollution days? How many children with asthma can stay in school rather than seek urgent care by reducing peak concentrations on high pollution days?
The same kind of analysis can be performed to answer the same questions with respect to the incidence of other adverse health outcomes known to be caused by exposure to the pollutants emitted from internal combustion engines, including ozone, nitrogen oxides, fine particles, and air toxics.
In its reviews of the health effects before the last Administration’s review of the adequacy of the NAAQS for PM2.5 (2009) and NO2 (2008), EPA identified strong causal relationships between exposure to these pollutants and fatal and other severe adverse health outcomes. In its review of the health effects literature available through 2009 as part of the Agency’s determination to make the NAAQS for PM2.5 more protective, EPA found [bold in original] 14
∙ “a causal relationship exists between short-term exposures to PM2.5 and mortality.” ∙ “a causal relationship exists between long-term exposures to PM2.5 and mortality.” ∙ “a causal relationship exists between short-term exposures to PM2.5 and cardiovascular effects.”
∙ “a causal relationship exists between long-term exposures to PM2.5 and cardiovascular effects.”
14 Integrated Science Assessment for Particulate Matter (US EPA, December 2009), pp. 2-10, 2-11, 2-12.[hereinafter ISA for PM]
EPA did not attribute these effects exclusively to fine particles emitted from motor vehicles, but EPA cited studies that establish a causal relationship between exposure to traffic PM, or one or more components of traffic PM emissions, and pre-mature mortality and emergency treatment for cardiovascular outcomes.
Together with similar research for all the pollutants known to be associated with adverse health outcomes that are emitted from the combustion of petroleum fuels in U.S. Postal Service vehicles, a reasonable estimate can be provided to the decisionmaker of the comparison in public health outcomes that will result from the alternatives of choosing new fleet vehicles powered by petroleum fuels versus zero emission vehicles.
- Postal Service Fleet Emissions Contribution to Hot-spot Exposures.
In addition to investigating the health benefits that can be achieved by eliminating emissions from Postal Service fleet vehicles that contribute to regional pollution in areas designated nonattainment, the EIS must also consider the health benefits likely to be achieved for local communities adjacent to Postal Service facilities served by large numbers of vehicles such as regional mail sorting centers. Executive Order 12898 requires that —
… each Federal agency shall make achieving environmental justice part of its mission by identifying and addressing, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low income populations.15
(a) each Federal agency, whenever practicable and appropriate, shall collect, maintain, and analyze information assessing and comparing environmental and human health risks borne by populations identified by race, national origin, or income. To the extent practical and appropriate, Federal agencies shall use this information to determine whether their programs, policies, and activities have disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects on minority populations and low-income populations….16
Communities adjacent to facilities served by a large number of vehicles (both U.S. Postal Service operated vehicles and vehicles owned by other operators serving the facility or locale) will be exposed to greater concentrations of the pollutants emitted in vehicle exhaust than other communities. Nearby communities will be exposed to the full array of tailpipe pollutants including fine particles (PM2.5), nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO) and mobile source air toxics. 17 These nearby community exposures will not be reflected in pollutant concentrations measured at regional air quality monitors located outside the incremental exposure zone near a U.S. Postal Service facility that is a destination for many vehicle trips.
The EIS must estimate cumulative emissions and the resulting community exposure to the mix of pollutants emitted from vehicle trips originating and ending at Postal Service facilities and other nearby indirect sources that attract large numbers of vehicles (i.e., intermodal terminals, airports, rail yards, sea ports and heavily trafficked highways), the expected health consequences for nearby communities
15 E.O. 12898, §1-101 (59 Fed. Reg. 7629, February 16, 1994).
16 Id., §3-302(a).
17 “Control of Emissions of Hazardous Air Pollutants From Mobile Sources,” 66 Fed. Reg. 17229 (March 29, 2001) (listing 21 toxic air pollutants emitted from mobile sources known to cause adverse impacts on human health).
exposed to such emissions, and the community health benefits that will be achieved if future emissions from Postal Service vehicles are eliminated.
Using emissions estimates for new petroleum fueled vehicles, EPA-approved dispersion models and available health effects research, a reasonable estimate of the public health impact of choosing petroleum fueled versus electric powered vehicles can be prepared for the decisionmaker. NEPA demands that these impacts on human health from choosing petroleum fueled vehicles and the costs of these health impacts on families and the national economy must be weighed in the balance, and that the health and economic benefits of choosing zero emission vehicles be considered before any decision may be lawfully made to invest U.S. Postal Service resources in a new delivery fleet that will affect air quality for at least a quarter century.
- An All Zero Emission Fleet is a Reasonable Alternative.
The NEPA rules require that an EIS “present the environmental impacts of the proposal and the alternatives in comparative form, … [and] shall (a) rigorously explore and objectively evaluate all reasonable alternatives….” 40 CFR §1502.14.
NEPA Section 101(a) directs agencies to use “all practicable means and measures” to “create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony, and fulfill the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations of Americans.” Whether an all zero emission fleet is a “reasonable alternative” under §1502.14 must be viewed in the light of the statutory directive to use all “practicable means and measures.” “Practicable” is defined by Meriam Webster as “capable of being put into practice or of being done or accomplished: synonymous with FEASIBLE; and capable of being used: synonymous with USABLE.”
The experience of Ffor-profit U.S. companies with operations similar to those of the USPS, like FedEx, Amazon and UPS, demonstrate that a 100% electric delivery fleet is both feasible (capable of being put into practice) and usable (capable of being used). All three companies are converting their delivery fleets to electric vehicles: (a) FedEx has issued detailed plans for its entire pickup and delivery fleet to be zero emission electric vehicles by 2040.; (b) Amazon already uses electric delivery vehicles and plans to have 100,000 on the road by 2030; and (c) United Parcel Service has already begun using small zero-emissions vans similar to the type that the US Postal Service needs, with plans to have 10,000 by the middle of this decade.
The US Postal Service has acknowledged in its announcement that some unspecified portion of its new fleet will be battery electric vehicles. In testimony to a House committee, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy “said the USPS had agreed to spend $500 million on the next-generation vehicles to make them convertible to EVs from internal-combustion models at a future date. ‘Every vehicle could be converted to electric,’ DeJoy said.”18
Nothing in the U.S. Postal Service announcement of the Oshkosh Defense contract, the IG review of the new vehicle development process, or DeJoy’s testimony to Congress suggests that zero emission vehicles are not a “practical,” or “reasonable” alternative for the entire delivery fleet. This alternative must be evaluated and compared with polluting internal combustion engine power trains in the EIS.
18 Automotive News (February 24, 2021) 1 in 10 new USPS vehicles will be electric, postal chief says (autonews.com).
For all of the above reasons, we request that the scope of the EIS include, at a minimum, discussion of how pollutants emitted from the new delivery fleet–
1) Will impact GHG emissions, climate warning and its impacts on the human environment; 2) Will impact emissions of harmful air pollutants, human exposure to those pollutants, and their impact on public health; 3) Can be eliminated, and their impacts avoided or minimized by investing in a fleet of zero emission vehicles.
Thank you for your considering our comments on this important matter.