Let's say you're on the city council of a coastal community where many residents are concerned about marine debris. Some of your constituents want to ban single-use plastic bags. But if you pass a ban without first doing an expensive study on the environmental impact of the decision, you'll face a lawsuit -- and the prospect of an expensive legal battle. That's the dilemma that communities in California face now, following the California Supreme Court's recent decision in the Manhattan Beach plastic bag lawsuit. Last week, for example, the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition said it would ask the First District California Court of Appeal to overturn a bag ban in unincorporated areas of Marin County. (Also, in a related move, yesterday Hilex Poly Co. LLC announced that it will be part of a lawsuit against the County of Los Angeles in response to a ban on plastic bags and a tax on paper bags.) Now Huntington Beach is taking a slightly different approach. The community says it will look at a plastic bag ban. But it wants environmental groups to pay for the expensive study. According to The Orange County Register, the Huntington Beach City Council voted 4-3 yesterday to pay Rincon Consulting nearly $30,000 to prepare an environmental impact report The Surfrider Foundation has already given the city $3,000 for the study, and it plans to raise the rest of the money -- plus funding to copy and disseminate the report. The newspaper quotes Surfrider Foundation member Bill Hickman: "Think of this as an investment, not a cost to the city. ... Recycling is not the answer for plastic bags. [Less than] 10 percent are recycled." For a few years now, the Surfriders group has been a serious player in debates about plastics bags and litter, especially in California. The decision to pay for Huntington Beach's environmental impact report will be an interesting test of how much support the group has, and whether its clout can eventually spread to other communities.
Surfers' group gets (more) serious about bag bans
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