The U.S. Postal Service is pushing back against a pressure campaign from Democrats to turn thousands of post offices into a network of electric car charging stations for the public, saying the plan would slow down mail operations and conflict with its mission to provide "prompt, reliable, and efficient postal services."
House Democrats want to install public electric vehicle chargers at thousands of post offices, turning USPS into a nationwide charging network—a proposal that has reportedly "excited" Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.
"We already own the property, the postal service has these vehicles and we could make them available to the public as well," said Rep. Marcy Kaptur in 2021 (D., Ohio).
The news comes as the cash-strapped and understaffed agency has faced demands from the Biden administration to increase its investment in green energy. Last month, the USPS said it would buy over 9,000 electric vehicles for its fleet and 14,000 charging stations.
But USPS officials warned that the plan to make such stations public would "conflict with or complicate the execution of USPS’s mission" of providing timely mail services, according to a congressional report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Thursday.
"USPS officials said hosting public chargers could conflict with the high importance USPS places on reduced wait times in retail facilities," said the report.
The postal service has been in a financial crisis for years and is struggling with massive staffing shortages that have caused mail delays. USPS reported a $2 billion net loss in the last fiscal year. The agency said providing public charging stations would create more financial hardships and overburden its workforce.
USPS told the GAO that its retail employees "may not have the capacity or skills to plan and operate public charging programs" and they "would likely have to respond to charging equipment problems while also being responsible for carrying out their normal job duties."
USPS said it is prohibited from earning revenue from non-mail services, so there would be "no potential financial benefits" for operating public chargers.
But "stakeholders" interviewed by the GAO—which included the Department of Energy, electric vehicle companies, and advocacy groups—argued that the plan would benefit the USPS by enhancing its "environmental reputation" and increasing its "community relevance."
The GAO report still urged USPS to install private EV chargers at its facilities for its workforce, saying this would help the agency "plan for potential future needs in a financially responsible manner."