A Politico article published this week features an eye-catching headline: “Louis DeJoy: From Trump villain to Biden’s clean energy buddy.” Quoting “sources close to DeJoy,” the piece argues that the scandal-plagued Postmaster General has turned over a new leaf, and is working with Biden climate advisor John Podesta to secure an “environmental renaissance” of the Postal Service delivery fleet.
If this sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. The article is simply another installment in DeJoy’s ongoing PR campaign to restore his tarnished image and distract the public from the long-term sabotage he has planned for USPS.
In reality, DeJoy is no climate ally – he’s the single biggest impediment to getting a fully electric vehicle (EV) and union-built postal fleet. Where the Postal Service has moved towards greater electrification, those changes have been in spite of DeJoy, not because of him. Worse, his current plans for the agency will still lock in tons of harmful and unnecessary emissions for decades to come. Meanwhile, the Postal Board of Governors – the only entity that could oust DeJoy – has failed to fire him thanks to Biden’s choice to fill two tipping-point Board seats with DeJoy enablers and keep Trump holdovers in two more slots.
Don’t fall for DeJoy’s spin tactics – here are the facts about his climate record.
DeJoy used a faulty climate analysis to support a majority gas-guzzler fleet proposal, only reversing course after the EPA criticized him and several climate groups sued him.
- In February 2021, USPS announced its next-generation delivery vehicle (NGDV) fleet contract with Oshkosh Defense – an order composed of 90% gas-powered vehicles with a fuel economy of just 8.6 miles per gallon. This initial contract with Oshkosh would have delivered a massive carbon footprint of 20 million metric tons over a 20-year lifespan. At the time, DeJoy proudly touted this 90% gas-guzzler plan as “a commitment to a more environmentally sustainable mix of vehicles.”
- In December 2021, USPS released an error-laden environmental impact statement (EIS) justifying its initial order with Oshkosh. The federal government’s audit bureau and independent climate experts blasted the study for overestimating EV maintenance costs and grossly underestimating long-term gasoline costs. DeJoy nonetheless invoked his agency’s shoddy cost study to rebut criticism from climate advocates at the time, saying that a majority-EV contract would be fiscally unsustainable for the agency.
- In February 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) sent two letters to DeJoy blasting his agency’s shoddy analysis and calling for a new EIS. That June, the Revolving Door Project and 100 other groups called on the EPA to invoke its power to refer projects that violate the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) to the CEQ for further environmental analysis – a power that has previously halted destructive oil and gas leases on public lands. In July 2022, shortly after we called on the EPA to use its executive powers to halt DeJoy’s fleet proposal, DeJoy announced that a supplemental EIS (SEIS) process would take place.
- In April 2022, four climate groups and 16 state attorneys general sued USPS over its flawed EIS and decision to sign the Oshkosh contract prior to an environmental review, arguing the agency had violated NEPA. The lawsuits singled out the EIS’ underestimation of gas prices (at a laughable $2.19/gallon) and EV mileage per charge and inflation of EV battery costs to justify lack of electrification. In response to the lawsuits, a USPS spokesperson defended the EIS process under DeJoy as “robust and thorough” and “fully [compliant] with NEPA obligations.”
- In the months following the fleet lawsuits and SEIS announcement, USPS repeatedly amended its next-gen fleet proposal to include commercial off-the-shelf vehicle purchases and increases in its EV purchase share – initially to 40%, and eventually to 62% of the total fleet. As of this writing, DeJoy’s current fleet plan still calls for 38% of the agency’s fleet to be gas-powered internal combustion engine vehicles well into the 2030s.
DeJoy refuses to support or even consider a near-100% electric postal fleet proposal, despite strong evidence it is feasible and more cost-effective than his current contract.
- DeJoy has resisted calls to move beyond a 62% EV fleet, with his fleet strategist Patrick Ecker claiming that “not all Postal Service delivery vehicle routes are compatible with electric vehicles.” However, according to the Postal Service’s own Inspector General, over 95% of current USPS routes could be serviced by electric vehicles with minimal compatibility issues.
- USPS’s Inspector General also concluded in a March 2022 report that an EV fleet would be cheaper over its full life-cycle than conventional fossil-fuel powered vehicles.
- In August 2022, USPS received $3 billion from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) for zero-emission trucks and electrification infrastructure – just eight months after the agency estimated that a 100% EV fleet would only require an extra $2.3 billion. This extra IRA money (especially after accounting for the inflated cost errors in the EIS) should be more than enough to finance a 100% electric fleet, yet DeJoy has continued to argue that a fully electric postal fleet is too costly.
- During the public input phase of the supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS), climate advocates urged the Postal Service to study a 90 to 100% EV fleet proposal, citing the USPS Inspector General’s feasibility findings. A draft SEIS released in June 2023 failed to analyze any near-100% fleet proposals. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the SEIS still contains “major flaws in the design, methods, and data inputs […] that lead to undervalued benefits and overinflated costs of fleet electrification.”
DeJoy’s current fleet contract would lock in years of pollution for frontline communities.
- According to Take On Wall Street’s Save The Post Office coalition, DeJoy’s decision to keep nearly 40% of the next-gen USPS fleet gas-powered would be devastating for frontline black and brown communities, who bear a disproportionate share of the burden of pollution from combustion-powered trucks. The coalition has also pointed out the negative effects of gas-powered trucks on mail carriers, who receive “high levels of localized air pollution” when postal vehicles are left idling.
- During a July 2023 SEIS hearing, climate experts from Earthjustice, the Sierra Club, and the National Resources Defense Council warned that DeJoy’s current 38% gas-guzzler fleet contract needlessly risked “locking in decades” of carbon emissions in frontline communities.
- According to Earthjustice, DeJoy’s USPS has quietly dropped its previous pledge to only buy electric trucks after 2026.
DeJoy has knowingly allowed manufacturer Oshkosh Defense to build the postal fleet with non-union scab labor, despite vocal outrage from the company’s own workers.
- Wisconsin-based fleet contract winner Oshkosh Defense will construct its postal vehicles at a brand-new facility in South Carolina, a notoriously anti-union state. Numerous postal watchdogs and members of Congress have described this as a “bait-and-switch” attempt at union avoidance by Oshkosh, given the company’s previous pledges to use an existing location in Wisconsin to fulfill the contract.
- Oshkosh’s UAW-organized workforce in Wisconsin has blasted the company’s “greedy” decision to employ scab labor, noting that the company owes its reputation as a top manufacturer to “84 years of union [workers].” UAW Local 578 workers have noted that Oshkosh has two existing plants in Wisconsin that are “lying empty” with a “workforce that’s available and eager to build the [postal fleet],” while the South Carolina factory won’t be up and running until later this year.
- Under questioning from Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, a top USPS official admitted that DeJoy and Postal leadership “never considered” requiring a unionized workforce in the fleet contracting process and knew Oshkosh Defense would outsource manufacturing to South Carolina “shortly before the public announcement of the contract.”
- For over two years, Oshkosh’s Wisconsin workforce has called on the Postal Service to renegotiate its fleet contract to require the use of unionized labor. Oshkosh UAW workers have rallied outside company headquarters and regularly attended quarterly Postal Board meetings, urging DeJoy and the agency to heed their calls. DeJoy has refused to even give them a response.
DeJoy has failed to heed calls to protect postal workers from intense summer heat.
- Amid a record summer heatwave that has already killed one USPS letter carrier, DeJoy has failed to make urgently-needed agency-wide improvements to the Postal Service’s Heat Illness Prevention Program (HIPP), such as fixing existing vehicle air-conditioning units and shifting carrier hours.
- DeJoy did not address the issue of heat illness prevention during his remarks at the August 2023 Postal Board meeting, despite being asked to outline improvements to USPS’ heat work conditions policies by more than a dozen House lawmakers a few weeks prior.
- At that same meeting, Postal Governor Ron Stroman – one of the Postal Board’s few DeJoy critics – urged USPS to adjust its hours of operation to reduce carriers’ exposure to heat stress and to consult with heat stress experts on policy improvements.
- According to several postal carriers interviewed by GovExec, USPS management has routinely flouted HIPP guidelines and turned a blind eye to their heat-related concerns. Some Texas postal branches have even suspended a long-standing practice of providing cold bottled water to carriers on their rounds. Several carriers report intense pressure to complete their rounds in scorching temperatures, and fear that management will retaliate if they do not.
DeJoy is being protected by the Postal Board of Governors and the White House, who remain indifferent to public backlash against DeJoy’s agenda.
- The nine-member Postal Board of Governors – the only entity that can fire DeJoy – has refused to oust him or push back on his flawed fleet contract. This is despite consistent public comments from climate groups and unions at USPS board meetings calling for the termination of DeJoy and his privatization-friendly 10-year plan.
- Though Biden has appointed five of the Board’s nine governors, at least two of his picks have been DeJoy enablers: former real estate executive Dan Tangherlini and former Mitch McConnell advisor Derek Kan. As I’ve written before, Biden’s nominations of Tangherlini and Kan squandered a key opportunity to finally give the Board a pro-reform, anti-DeJoy majority.
- Biden has failed to nominate candidates to replace Trump-appointed Governors Lee Moak and William Zollars, despite their terms expiring last December. This has allowed Moak and Zollars to serve one-year holdover terms and continue occupying seats that Biden has been legally allowed to fill for months.
- The Save The Post Office coalition has endorsed former Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence and postal expert Sarah Anderson – two strong critics of DeJoy’s leadership – for these positions. Biden has yet to indicate he will nominate anyone to these vacancies.
For more on DeJoy’s actual climate record, check out the following resources:
- DeJoy Is Still Dragging His Feet at Every Step on Electrifying the Postal Fleet [Common Dreams, 7/26/23]
- Despite Potential to Electrify 90 Percent of Routes, USPS Still Plans to Deliver Pollution with the Mail [Union of Concerned Scientists, 7/24/23]
- EVs and S&DCs: USPS says you can’t have one without the other [Steve Hutkins, 4/5/23]
- The USPS Could Be Transformative for Decarbonizing America—if Only It Weren’t Run by Louis DeJoy [TNR, 12/22/22]