Multi-State Complaint Filed with PRC About PMG’s 10-Year Plan

Last year, in the heat of allegations that Postal Service operational changes being implemented by then-new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy were politically motivated efforts to delay election-related mail, a group of attorneys general from several jurisdictions brought suit in federal court and successfully delayed some of DeJoy’s plans.

That group is no happier with what DeJoy is doing – or proposing – in his 10-year Plan announced last March.  On October 7, a complaint was filed with the Postal Regulatory Commission by the attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington.

The issue

The complaint centers on the Postal Service’s failure to seek an advisory opinion from the PRC before “adopting significant and nationwide changes in the nature of postal services.”  Though the agency sought advisory opinions earlier this year regarding service standard changes for First-Class Mail and some Periodicals, and later for First-Class packages, the complainants assert that

“As the Commission has already recognized, the Plan is ‘significantly broader’ than the requests submitted, and the combined effect of the Plan’s full breadth of changes ‘may ... have a much different impact on postal services than what [has been] presented and evaluated’ in those cases.  The Postal Service likewise acknowledges that the Plan is replete with ‘interdependencies.’

“Because the Plan is a comprehensive and holistic effort to transform the Postal Service, how the Plan will affect postal services – and whether the Plan will accomplish the Postal Service’s goals – can only be evaluated by viewing the Plan as a whole.  But the Postal Service has not requested an advisory opinion for the Plan as a whole, violating its statutory obligations. ...

“In addition, failing to seek the Commission’s expert review on such a transformational change upsets the statutory balance established by the PRA, deprives the Postal Service of the Commission’s expert recommendations, risks significant errors in the Postal Service’s decision-making, and ultimately harms all who rely on the Postal Service for timely and efficient mail.”

Supporting their allegation, the complainants detailed elements of the Plan and statements by postal officials that acknowledge its span and complexity.  The complaint also noted that 

“Although the Plan as a whole reflects significant and transformative changes to the Postal Service, including its operations and the availability of postal services nationwide, the Postal Service has not presented the entire Plan to the Commission for an advisory opinion, as required by law.  Instead, the Postal Service is presenting only certain segments of the Plan to the Commission.  As noted above, to date, the Postal Service has only submitted two requests for an advisory opinion, which represent only a small portion of the Plan’s scope.”

The attorneys referred to the less than favorable advisory opinions already rendered by the PRC.

“In July 2021, the Commission issued a thorough advisory opinion on this proposed change.  As a general matter, the Commission concluded that the Postal Service’s proposal to change service standards for First-Class Mail rested on unreasonable and untenable assumptions, incomplete and faulty analysis, and poor modeling.  The Commission added that the ‘Postal Service has not confidently demonstrated that its plans’ will achieve its goals of improving service performance and its financial condition.”

After listing several specific elements of the PRCs opinion, the writers stated that

“Based on these conclusions, the Commission wrote that, while the Postal Service’s proposal was not facially at odds with certain statutory directives, the proposal would be consistent with those directives only if the Postal Service’s assumptions proved correct notwithstanding all the identified flaws.

“Chairman Kubayanda wrote separately to question ‘whether the Postal Service has conducted a serious cost-benefit analysis with respect to the plan for remittance mail,’ which is relied on disproportionally by elderly Americans and which will be significantly impacted by the proposed changes.

“Vice Chairwoman Poling also wrote separately, pointing out how the proposed changes ignore the needs of rural America and vulnerable groups.”

Regarding the PRC’s second advisory opinion, the complaint stated:

“The Commission again concluded that the Postal Service’s proposal suffered from unsupported assumptions, non-representative model data, inflated cost savings, and an unrealistic transportation model. ... As a result, the Postal Service had ‘again failed to demonstrate that it has a detailed plan to implement an efficient and reliable surface transportation network, which is a necessary condition for achieving operational efficiency.’”

The complaint further claims that 39 USC 3661 “require[s] an initial Postal Service presentation and full opportunity for public input, and a review in a hearing on the record,” guaranteeing “the mailing public the opportunity to be heard in a neutral public forum before changes in service [a]re imposed upon them.”  The attorneys argue that the breadth of the Plan constitutes “change[s] ... in the nature of postal services” that “affect service ‘on a nationwide or substantially nationwide basis’” and therefore are subject to 3661 review.

As relief, the complainants want the PRC to “order the Postal Service to request an advisory opinion on the entire Plan, which will ensure the Commission’s review of these significant changes and provide the States and the broader public the opportunity to comment on them.”

Observations

Setting aside the legal arguments presented by the attorneys, if the PRC upholds the complaint, the relief it seeks – another advisory opinion from the PRC – will not make any material difference.  Though the action by the attorneys general may delay the Plan’s implementation, or make a statement about its wisdom, or simply yield a procedural record to give Congress as the basis for it to act, in practicality another non-binding advisory opinion won’t stop Louis DeJoy.

The PMG has already demonstrated a dismissive indifference to any opposition to his Plan, whether from ratepayers, commercial mailers, or even Congress, and he’s ignored the PRC’s advisory opinions that have already been issued.  As a result, regardless of what another advisory opinion may say, it’s virtually guaranteed that DeJoy will press forward, supremely confident that he and his Plan will save the USPS.

 

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