The USPS, possessing the largest fleet of civilian vehicles, would offer a great opportunity for electrification. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s plan, on the other hand, would lock in USPS emissions for years to come. But there is still a chance to change course, thanks to a rarely used bureaucratic maneuver: The Environmental Protection Agency could refer the USPS’s plan to buy gas-powered vehicles to the White House, by way of the Council on Environmental Quality, or CEQ. If necessary, the matter could then advance to the president’s desk for a final decision.
The National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, which was unanimously passed by the Senate in 1969, mandated that all executive agencies are required to consider and prioritize the environment and climate in policies and projects. Agencies create environmental impact statements or, for smaller projects, environmental assessments, which outline the ramifications of projects that will significantly affect “the quality of the human environment.” If the EPA decides an environmental impact statement is insufficient, it can fall back on a rarely invoked provision in Section 309 of the Clean Air Act that grants the administrator of the EPA the authority to refer any federal agency’s environmentally unsatisfactory legislation, regulation, or project to the White House.