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UPDATE 1-Senate Democrat pushes U.S. Postal Service to buy cleaner delivery fleet

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(Adds more comments, details, no immediate USPS comment)

By David Shepardson and Ben Klayman

Feb 4 (Reuters) - The chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Friday asked the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to reverse course and buy a cleaner fleet of next-generation delivery vehicles.

The push by Senator Tom Carper comes two days after the White House and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) urged USPS to reconsider its plan to buy a new multibillion-dollar fleet of primarily gasoline-powered delivery vehicles.

Carper said in a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy USPS should complete a supplemental environmental impact review "and adopt an approach that will result in a cleaner, more cost-effective, and more sustainable postal fleet."

The EPA Wednesday urged USPS to hold a new hearing on its 10-year contract with Oshkosh Corp awarded in February 2021 that could be worth $6 billion or more to build up to 165,000 next-generation delivery vehicles. USPS rejected a proposal from electric-vehicle maker Workhorse Group.

Environmental groups have sharply criticized USPS's plan.

Carper said if USPS proceeds "it will be taking action that is not only unwise, but will also expose the service to significant legal jeopardy."

USPS did not immediately comment on Carper's letter but said Wednesday it believed it was in compliance with environmental review requirements and must focus on USPS's "financial sustainability."

Oshkosh Defense President John Bryant declined to comment on questions about the environmental impact review but said in a statement the company could "produce any mix of BEV (electric vehicle) and ICE (combustion engine) vehicles, up to 100% BEVs, that the USPS wants."

DeJoy has said the agency was committed to having electric vehicles make up 10% of its next-generation fleet.

The EPA said USPS' proposed new gas-powered vehicles "are expected to achieve only 8.6 miles per gallon (mpg), barely improving over the decades old long-life vehicles that achieve 8.2 mpg."

President Joe Biden's spending and climate bill would award $6 billion for USPS to purchase electric delivery vehicles and infrastructure.

The United Auto Workers union has criticized Oshkosh for building the vehicles in South Carolina rather than at a union-represented facility in Wisconsin and urged a new review of the contract on environmental grounds. (Reporting by David Shepardson Editing by Mark Potter)