PLASTIC OH-NO BAND: COUNCIL QUINTET’S ENVIRO-ODE TO BE HEARD IN COURTBy LBReport.com
In the first fallout from the Long Beach City Council’s just-approved ordinance that beginning Aug. 1 will prohibit most of the city’s grocery stores from from offering free plastic bags to customers—instead charging 10 cents each—the “Save the Plastic Bag Coalition” has informed City Hall that it will file a legal challenge to the ban.
San Francisco-based attorney Stephen Joseph intends to file a Petition for a Writ of Mandate on June 9. It will challenge the Environmental Impact Report that accompanied the plastic-bag-banning ordinance, basing that challenge on Long Beach verbiage that sets the threshhold for EIR actions that constitute a “significant impact.”
Joseph told LBReport.com that Long Beach City Hall could have avoided the legal action if it had done what Los Angeles County did: acknowledged the ordinance’s environmental impacts and adopted a “Statement of Overriding Considerations.”
The Save The Plastic Bag Coalition’s website states that the organization was formed in June 2008. “Its sole purpose is to inform decision-makers and the public about the environmental impacts of plastic bags, paper bags, and reusable bags. The anti-plastic bag campaign is largely based on myths, misinformation, and exaggerations. We are responding with environmental truth. That is why we are asking for Environmental Impact Reports. We believe that banning plastic bags is unjustified based on the true facts.”
The ordinance to ban plastic bags was proposed in December 2010 by Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal and Councilmembers Robert Garcia and Gary DeLong without Council Committee hearings inviting public testimony specifically on the matter. It shaped up as an easy way for three ambitious politicians to acquire some easy environmentalist credentials that could be displayed in some future campaign.
But the by the time the measure faced its final council approval on May 24, the issue wasn’t so simple, anymore. Despite being deprived of the right to comment initially, Long Beach residents had raised issues ranging from the proposal’s impact on economic justice (10-cent bags aren’t easy on the poor) to environmental reality (proof of the danger of plastic bags) to excessive government intervention (applying a penality to a legal product).
Ultimately, the ordinance was approved by a 5-3 vote. In favor: Lowenthal, Garcia, James Johnson, Steve Neal, and in last-minute return to council chambers after leaving the dais during debate, DeLong. Opposed: Patrick O’Donnell, Gerrie Schipske and Rae Gabelich. Bewildered: Dee Andrews, who after spending weeks casting his preliminary votes on the ordinance every which-way, got up and left City Hall during debate and never returned.
Mayor Bob Foster signed the ordinance into law on June 3 … and now the whole thing is headed for court.