The Federal Times published an item on its Fedline blog today suggesting that the postal service’s plan to start plant consolidations at 48 locations this summer could be derailed because the Postal Regulatory Commission won’t issue an advisory opinion in time:
Don’t look now, but a key piece of the U.S. Postal Service’s downsizing drive this year is at risk of getting smoked before it even gets started.
It’s the piece that involves closing or consolidating 48 mail processing plants in July and August. As part of that effort, the Postal Service is seeking a legally required advisory opinion from the Postal Regulatory Commission on a related proposal to revamp first-class mail delivery standards. The problem is that the commission doesn’t plan to issue that opinion until early September—after the downsizing is already supposed to have happened.
The problem with the Federal Times story is that it ignores two very important items in the law:
- The USPS is required to request an advisory opinion. That’s not the same as requesting approval. An advisory opinion can put pressure on the USPS to modify its plans, but it is advisory- the PRC doesn’t get to approve or disapprove the service changes.
- The other problem is that there is no “legally required advisory opinion”. The law only requires the USPS to request an opinion. As the USPS points out in its legal filings, the law doesn’t require the USPS to wait for the opinion to be issued- and once it is issued, the USPS is under no obligation to consider the opinion. (The USPS also points out that while it is required to request an opinion, the law doesn’t actually require the PRC to issue one!) The bottom line is that there is no legal requirement for the USPS to wait for an opinion from the PRC before proceeding with its plans.
So will delay at the PRC stop the USPS from proceeding with plant consolidations? No. Regardless of what you think of the USPS plans, the only thing that could block them is Congressional action- and how likely is that? (Unless of course, Congress plays to its acknowledged strengths, and renames all the plants “Forever P&DC”)
The PRC will provide a forum for critics of the plan to argue their points, but the end result is likely to be similar to the PRC’s infamous Five Day Delivery opinion, which was a year in the making, and, in the end, of no consequence whatsoever.
You can’t help but wonder if it’s the increasingly irrelevant Postal Regulatory Commission that’s really “in jeopardy”.