PRC rejects Careywood closing appeal- Goldway calls decision “probably illegal”

prcIn a decision issued today, the Postal Regulatory Commission ruled that it does not have the authority to stop the US Postal Service from closing the Careywood, Idaho post office. Former PRC chair Ruth Goldway was the sole dissenting voice. Goldway suggested that the decision was “probably illegal”, and that under the majority’s reasoning, any rural post office could be closed as long as customers could access the Internet.

Here’s how the majority summarized its reasoning:

In the case of Careywood, as discussed further below, the Commission is not ruling on a motion to dismiss the appeal of a closing of a traditional post office, but rather it is ruling on a motion to dismiss the appeal of a CPU. This is an important distinction as the Commission, through over 30 years of precedent, has established that the Postal Service’s decision to close or consolidate a CPU is only within the Commission’s jurisdiction if the CPU is the sole source of postal services to the affected community.

The Commission did decide to institute a new proceeding to determine if any changes need to be made in the way it handles these types of appeals:

The distinctions the Commission has drawn for more than 30 years in considering appeals filed under section 404(d) to review closings of CPOs and CPUs have worked reasonably well to protect the interests of all stakeholders. Commission review has been limited to those cases where the retail facility is the sole source of postal services in the community. Nevertheless, questions have arisen in this proceeding about application of the Commission’s precedents and its policy for review of the closing of CPOs and CPUs as to whether the facilities to be closed may be the sole source of retail services in the community. Rather than addressing these issues further in the instant proceeding, which necessarily is limited to the current parties, the Commission will initiate a separate proceeding to review the scope of its legislative authority under section 404(d) to consider Postal Service actions involving the closing of a retail facility.

Former Chairwoman Goldway, in her dissent, wrote that the Commission’s action is unreasonable, and violates the PRC’s responsibilities under the law:

The majority decision here – despite the promise of a new general proceeding in which it will be challenging for average citizens to participate – in fact establishes an unreasonable precedent that mere access to the internet and are adequate substitutes for post offices in any rural community. No rural post office would qualify as a sole source under this untested and probably illegal standard. Such a decision contradicts the legal obligations the Commission has to protect rural postal service and to ensure that the Postal Service provides adequate procedural reviews and citizen
engagement before closing a post office. Commenters here have raised serious bona fide concerns about the adequacy of Postal Service due process.

It will be difficult for the Commission to continue to encourage the Postal Service to meet its obligations to the rural public when the Commission declines to hear credible and legitimate citizen appeals. If, after giving Careywood the opportunity to be heard, the Commission still believes that the closing does not fit within its jurisdiction, a decision to deny the appeal would at least have some substance and meaning.

I disagree with the majority opinion’s disavowal of the Commission’s statutory responsibilities and the interests of the community in this proceeding.