Nearly $7.5B to electrify federal fleet in Oversight panel bill

Reconciliation provision includes $2.4 billion to electrify Postal Service vehicles

Electric vehicles are displayed before a news conference in Washington with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in April to highlight the Biden administration's plans for electric vehicles and charging stations. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Electric vehicles are displayed before a news conference in Washington with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in April to highlight the Biden administration's plans for electric vehicles and charging stations. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Posted August 31, 2021 at 7:43am

The House Oversight and Reform Committee will take up a $7.5 billion package Thursday that’s mainly intended to help the General Services Administration and U.S. Postal Service’s vehicle fleet go green.

The proposal is intended to be inserted into Democrats’ massive $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, which will flesh out numerous domestic social policy initiatives from clean energy to health care.

A memo from committee staff, posted online Monday along with a notice that the panel plans to vote Thursday, says $5 billion would go toward electrifying the GSA’s fleet. The GSA, the federal government’s property manager, is in charge of vehicle purchases, leases and short-term rentals for federal agencies as well as state and local governments.

An additional $2.4 billion would be for electrifying the Postal Service vehicle fleet; half would go toward buying electric vehicles, and the other half would be for “the requisite support infrastructure,” the panel memo says. “This funding would position the federal government as a leader in vehicle modernization and would represent a significant step towards a fully electric future for federal vehicles,” according to committee staff.

President Joe Biden earlier this year proposed the same dollar amounts in his budget request for transitioning the federal vehicle fleet, in line with his Jan. 27 executive order on “tackling the climate crisis.” The order calls for a “comprehensive plan to create good jobs and stimulate clean energy industries,” in part by procuring “clean and zero-emission vehicles for Federal, State, local, and Tribal government fleets, including vehicles of the United States Postal Service.”

Earlier this month, Biden signed another executive order calling for electric vehicles to make up at least 50 percent of new vehicles sold in the U.S. by 2030.

According to the most recent GSA data, the federal government owns, manages or leases 657,506 cars, trucks, buses, limousines, ambulances and other vehicles; of that figure 3,170 run on electricity, mostly in the military branches. The Postal Service share of the federal fleet totals 225,545, with just 25 electric vehicles, according to GSA data.

Earlier this year, the Postal Service awarded a $482 million contract to Wisconsin-based Oshkosh Defense to begin designing new electric and low-emission mail trucks. The deal could eventually result in delivery of up to 165,000 new trucks over the next decade, at a more than $6 billion cost.

Some lawmakers, such as Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., want to provide enough money to meet the Postal Service target, though it doesn’t appear that the Oversight and Reform allocation would allow for that. Huffman’s bill is co-sponsored by committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., and Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter A. DeFazio, D-Ore., among others.

Elsewhere in the Oversight and Reform reconciliation proposal, the panel would provide $10.7 million to inspectors general at the GSA and Postal Service to oversee the electrification funds, and $10 million to start making capital improvements at the roughly 31,000 post offices around the country.

The proposal would also set aside $50 million for the National Archives and Records Administration “to address backlogs in responding to veterans’ requests for military personnel records, improve cyber security, improve digital preservation and access to archival federal records, and address backlogs in Freedom of Information Act requests.”

The Oversight and Reform markup of its reconciliation recommendations, to be delivered to the Budget Committee before a Sept. 15 deadline, will be held remotely on Thursday morning.