Tester ‘deeply concerned’ by Postal Service proposal

Postal Service received over 4,200 public comments on original proposal

(U.S. SENATE) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester says he is "deeply concerned" about the U.S. Postal Service's proposal to lower service standards, resulting in delayed mail and other consequences that would hurt "commerce and quality of life in rural America."

The Postal Service recently announced plans to consolidate hundreds of mail processing facilities, close 85 post offices in Montana, and eliminate overnight mail service nationwide.

In a letter to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, Tester said Montanans depend on timely and reliable mail delivery for everyday necessities like "medicines, equipment, correspondence, paychecks and even election ballots."

The Postal Service currently delivers first-class mail in one-to-three days, but is planning to close hundreds of processing facilities across the country. As a consequence of that reduction, the Postal Service estimates mail would be delivered in two or three days. Tester said that consolidating processing facilities would make it "virtually impossible" to provide a three-day turnaround on first class mail in rural America. He cited the Postal Service’s plan to move Missoula’s and Kalispell’s mail processing facilities to Spokane as one example that will impact delivery time in western Montana.

Tester also noted that Americans sent thousands of comments to the Postal Service opposing the plan.

“We are particularly disappointed that although the majority of the 4,200 public comments were negative, the current proposal makes no real changes,” Tester wrote Donahoe. "We again urge you to reconsider how this proposed rule will impact the parts of the country that most depend on timely mail delivery."

Tester also pointed out that closing mail processing facilities and post offices in rural areas will violate the Postal Service’s promise to “provide prompt, reliable, and efficient services in all areas and all communities.” 

The Postal Service in August announced plans to close 85 Montana post offices, and more recently recommended consolidating mail processing facilities in Kalispell, Missoula, Helena, Butte, and Wolf Point. The Postal Service is struggling financially in part due to a 2006 law – passed before Tester was a member of the Senate – that set a formula for the pre-funding of employee health benefits.

Tester, a member of the Senate committee that oversees the Postal Service, recently amended the 21st Century Postal Service Act, to prevent the Postal Service from closing post offices until it establishes clear criteria for determining whether a post office should be closed and fully considers alternative ways to save money.

Montana’s senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus, who also signed the letter said, “Closing rural post offices and sending Montana area mail processing facilities out of state won't create the kind of savings necessary for a long term solution and even more troubling is that it could seriously impact service. I'll keep doing everything I can to find the best solution for Montana.”

Tester’s letter to Donahoe is available below and online HERE.


February 10, 2012

The Honorable Patrick Donahoe    Industry Engagement and Oureach
Postmaster General                    United States Postal Service
United States Postal Service        475 L'Enfant Plaza SW
458 L'Enfant Plaza Southwest      Room 4107
Washington, D.C. 200024-2114    Washington, D.C. 20260-4107

RE: Service Standards for Market-Dominant Mail Products

Dear Postmaster General Donahoe:

We write to offer our comments with regard to the United States Postal Service’s proposal to reduce service standards for First Class mail delivery. We remain deeply concerned that the consequences of this proposed reduction in service standards for commerce and quality of life in rural America would be devastating.

The impact of reducing these standards will be particularly difficult for our constituents in rural America who depend on fast and reliable service to maintain access to necessary medicines, equipment, correspondence, paychecks and even election ballots. We are particularly disappointed that although the majority of the 4,200 public comments filed in response to the Postal Service’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking were negative, the current proposal makes no real changes to the rule. Further, many people who commented on the rule expressed concern that the mail would “lose its utility to those who rely upon it most, such as the elderly, those who cannot access the internet, and those who live in rural areas.” The new proposed rule does not appear to make any changes to recognize the importance of timely mail delivery in rural areas.

In many parts of rural America, the closure or consolidation of processing facilities would make it virtually impossible to maintain even a three-day turn-around on first class mail, even when it originates and is delivered within the same rural community. One example is the proposal to move mail processing from western Montana to Spokane, Washington, across two treacherous mountain passes and several hundred miles. Such a move would eliminate not only overnight and two-day service in western Montana, but would undoubtedly result in unacceptable further delays in service beyond the three days maximum. Similar examples can be found throughout rural America of how the Postal Service’s proposed plan to eliminate overnight service and close hundreds of processing facilities will cripple postal delivery. We urge you to reconsider this flawed proposal and instead seek other avenues of increased revenue and cost-cutting.

Closure of mail processing facilities that serve rural areas and rural post offices will result in the Postal Service’s failure to live up to its promise to “provide prompt, reliable, and efficient services to patrons in all areas and shall render postal services to all communities.” Our constituents in rural America cannot continue to disproportionately bear the brunt of the Postal Service’s budget and service-cutting measures.

We are aware of the precarious financial position of the Postal Service, and there is broad bipartisan agreement in the Congress that the Postal Service must not be eliminated or privatized. We look forward to the coming debate over how best to strengthen the long-term future of the Postal Service. However, it is imperative that the Postal Service not accidentally destroy itself with its own cost-cutting efforts. We strongly believe that further eroding service delivery standards in rural America will result in exactly that.

We appreciate the opportunity to provide these comments and we again urge you to reconsider how this proposed rule will impact the parts of the country that most depend on timely mail delivery. 

Jon Tester et al.