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U.S. Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard, P.L.L.C.| Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard, P.L.L.C.

U.S. Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard, P.L.L.C.| Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard, P.L.L.C.

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The Sierra Club and two other environmental organizations filed an April 28th Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief (“Complaint”) against the United States Postal Service (“Service”) alleging violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”).

The Complaint alleges that the Service’s decision to replace up to 165,000 postal delivery vehicles violated NEPA because the purchase was consummated prior to the required environmental analysis being undertaken.

NEPA requires federal agencies assessing the environmental consequences of proposed actions before they make any decisions. NEPA covers a wide range of actions, which has been used as an example.

  • Federal agencies take decisions about permit applications
  • Federal land management actions
  • Construction of and/or funding highways, and other publicly owned facilities

NEPA was designed to make mission-oriented agencies consider the environmental consequences of any decision or activity. A decision by the Department of Defense, for example, to build a base at a specific location, would typically consider many issues, such as logistics and infrastructure. The environmental issues must also be addressed in the event that the proposed activity triggers a NEPA Review. This includes situations where a state, or local government, uses federal funds for infrastructure construction. It is important that environmental considerations are considered in planning agency actions as soon as possible.

NEPA requires federal agencies include environmental issues and values into their decision-making process. This is accomplished by the agency considering the environmental impacts of proposed actions and other reasonable alternatives. The statute requires federal agencies in certain instances to prepare a detailed Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”). However, the requirement to produce this document is only triggered in the event of a “major federal action” that will “significantly affect the environment.” As opposed to an EIS, which is a much more detailed document, an Environmental Assessment (“EA”) provides sufficient evidence and analysis for determining whether a finding of no significant impact for an EIS should be prepared.

NEPA is not the same as enforcement of environmental statutory programs like the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. It does not impose substantive mandates. It only requires federal agencies to comply with certain procedural requirements, such as preparing an EA or EIS in certain cases. NEPA doesn’t require an alternative or meet a specific standard. Nevertheless, the failure to comply with NEPA’s procedural mandates can result in an activity or project being enjoined.

Sierra Club claims that in January 2015, the Service issued a request to information regarding prototypes for postal delivery vehicles. It further alleges that the Service selected and ordered prototypes for internal combustion engine (“ICE”) electric vehicles (“EVs”), and hybrid options. The Service is stated to have formalized the contract with Oshkosh Defense (“OD”) to produce up to 165,000 ICE vehicles. Further allegations are made by the Complaint.

  • The contract states that the initial order would be fulfilled by 2023.
  • The Service made a $482 million payment as its first payment
  • After the call for prototypes, evaluation and research of different vendors, finalization and issuing the first payment, the Service began NEPA review

A draft Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) and Final EIS are stated to have been issued on August 26, 2021, and January 7, 2022, respectively.

According to this, the NEPA documents were not prepared in time.

The Sierra Club, along with co-plaintiffs Clean Air Now and Center for Biological Diversity therefore challenge the Service’s Final EIS on Next Generation Delivery Vehicle acquisitions along with its Record of Decision related to the vehicle acquisition. They request that the EIS be declared to have violated NEPA, and that the Record of Decision and EIS be vacated until the Service is in compliance with applicable law.

Download a copy the Complaint Here.

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