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Lawsuit Filed Against County for Plastic Bag Ban

Save the Plastic Bag Coalition filed a lawsuit against the county Thursday.

Save the Plastic Bag Coalition filed a lawsuit against Marin County on Thursday for passing an ordinance that would ban all plastic bags at groceries and check-counters in unincorporated Marin.

The lawsuit argues that the county violated the California Environmental Quality Act, also known as CEQA, by passing the ban without completing an environmental impact report first. 

“We’re suing based on the fact that the plastic bag ban issue requires science, namely environmental science, before a rational, intelligent decision can be made,” said Stephen Joseph, attorney for the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition.

The Marin Board of Supervisors unanimously passed the ordinance on Jan. 25. On top of banning plastic bags, the ordinance will also impose a 5-cent fee per paper bag for anyone who forgets their own reusable bags at grocery stores.

The coalition claims that an environmental impact report would’ve proved that a 5-cent fee wouldn’t be enough to dissuade shoppers from using paper bags, and the life cycle of paper bags results in 3.3 times the greenhouse gas emissions than plastic bags.

“The county has not even attempted to comply with CEQA,” Joseph said.  “In contrast, Los Angeles County, San Jose and Santa Monica completed EIRs before banning plastic bags.”

Since the county did not complete an EIR, the ordinance should be deemed invalid, the coalition argues. 

Supervisors anticipated a lawsuit back in January when Joseph told them during the public comment section that the coalition would be taking legal action against the ordinance.

Supervisor Charles McGlashan, who represents Mill Valley, Belvedere, Sausalito and Tiburon, after they passed the ban that the price of the litigation would cost less, between $5,000 to $10,000 depending, than an EIR, which could cost millions. 

Studies have shown that similar bans encourage the use of reusable bags but don't incite a dramatic increase in the consumption of paper bags, he told Patch.

None of the supervisors were available for comment. The county has 30 days to issue a response.

Karen February 25, 2011 at 04:36 PM
If three other counties are cited as completing the environmental impact study and consequently banned plastic bags, why can't Marin use their findings to make their determination? Do we have to keep repeating the same tests to find the same answers? It seems like a waste of time, effort and money to me.
Nick Kies February 25, 2011 at 04:48 PM
It's not a waste of time to the Plastics Industry that wants to make money on the pollution and harm that plastics make on the face of the planet. How do you access the damage of plastic when a lot of it ends up killing off ocean life when it gets carried off in rains and tides? What about its thousand year life span in a dump. What about the big lie that plastic is recyclable when in reality it merely reused and eventually ends up sitting somewhere for a thousand years when you stop using it! Plastic is also made of oil, that in itself is a reason to discourage it's use. What about the hormones and substances that have subtle effects on our bodies from all the plastic on food and beverages. Plastic is the new cigarette!
Kelly Dunleavy O'Mara February 25, 2011 at 08:56 PM
I wonder if they can use other environmental impact studies to make their own findings -- my guess is that in general when doing enviro reviews the state requires each municipality to do their own on how it would specifically impact that municipality. but, I don't know if that would be different for plastic bags.
Bob February 26, 2011 at 03:55 AM
You're absolutely correct. Excluding the fact that the bags are petroleum based, what moron needs an environmental impact study to determine all the obvious impacts you've listed? A low-life, opportunistic lawyer, that's who.

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