California Supreme Court oral argument scheduled in Manhattan Beach case

Oral argument has been scheduled in the California Supreme Court (in San Francisco) for Wednesday, May 4, 2011 at 1:30 pm. Background of Save the Plastic Bag Coalition v. City of Manhattan Beach:

In 2008, the City of Manhattan beach adopted a plastic bag reduction ordinance pursuant to a negative declaration under CEQA.  Save the Plastic Bag Coalition (“SPBC”) sued, claiming in part that “Respondents abused their discretion by adopting the Ordinance without prior compliance with CEQA, including but not limited to the preparation of an EIR.”  SPBC’s main argument was basically that paper bags might be worse for the environment than plastic bags.  SPBC won in superior court and that opinion was affirmed in a 2-1 decision by the Court of appeal.  The California Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

Manhattan Beach’s ordinance was part of the first generation of plastic bag bans, which banned plastic bags and did not place a charge on paper bags.  The second generation of plastic bag bans includes a 5-10 cent charge on paper bags, which makes those bans less susceptible to arguments regarding increased paper bag use because the monetary incentive encourages a switch from plastic bags to reusable bags.  Therefore, even if the court finds that Manhattan Beach should have conducted an EIR prior to adopting its ordinance, it may not necessarily mean that the same is true regarding the newer ordinances.

Questions presented to the Supreme Court of California:

This case presents the following issues: (1) Did an association of plastic bag manufacturers have standing to challenge a local ordinance banning the use of plastic bags? (2) Did the trial court err in ruling the ordinance invalid for the failure to prepare an environmental impact report?

View litigation documents here:

Save the Plastic Bag Coalition v. City of Manhattan Beach, et al.