USPS reverses policy, will publish all post office discontinuances in Postal Bulletin

Steve HutkinsBlog, Featured

Back in September, the Postal Service introduced a new policy that put a limit on the number of discontinuances it would publish in any given issue of Postal Bulletin. In the issues of September 8 and September 22, the Bulletin explained that “due to the extensive number of offices on the Discontinuance List,” the discontinuances would be announced on the Postal Pro, a website used primarily by business mailers.

As a result of the new policy, 85 post office discontinuances were not published in the Postal Bulletin (all of them for post offices suspended many years ago), even though the Bulletin has been the official record of discontinuances for over 140 years — and despite that fact that publication of discontinuances in the Bulletin is required by federal regulations.

In response to an inquiry from Linn’s Stamp News, the Postal Service explained that that “increasing printing costs” led the Postal Service to devise an “alternative format” when the list of post office changes gets too large to print — when it exceeds 3 pages or 27 items.

On January 18th, I raised the issue with the Postal Regulatory Commission in a motion for an information request that included much of the material in my article arguing that it was a mistake not to include all discontinuances in the Bulletin.

The motion requested that the Commission ask the Postal Service how the new policy conformed with federal regulations, why it wasn’t being applied consistently to other long lists in the Bulletin, how much it cost to print the Bulletin’s pages, and why the Postal Service hadn’t simply spread the announcements over several issues so that no single issue had too long of a list.

The next day, the Postal Service issued an opposition to my motion, which, among other things, suggested that my information request about the Postal Bulletin “more closely resembles a thinly disguised rhetorical ploy than a good-faith request for information.”

That same day, the Commission issued an information request in which it asked the Postal Service whether it “has considered publishing the list of discontinued post offices and their office closing dates as an Appendix to the Postal Bulletin instead of as a link to separate website.” The question included a reference to 39 C.F.R. § 241.3(g)(2), which states “If no appeal is filed, the official closing date of the office must be published in the Postal Bulletin….”

This past Friday, the Postal Service provided a one-sentence response: “The Postal Service currently plans to publish the list referenced in this information request in a future edition of the Postal Bulletin.”

Rather than bothering with an appendix, then, the Postal Service will apparently simply include the 85 discontinuances in a future issue of the Bulletin, even though it will exceed the 27-item limit. It looks like the policy to limit the number of discontinuances in any issue of the Bulletin has been discontinued.

All’s well that ends well.

— Steve Hutkins