Marin County Wins Plastic Bag Ordinance Lawsuit, Final Hearing Scheduled for Tuesday Sept. 27th at 9am
On January 25, 2011, the Marin County Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance that bans single-use plastic bags at grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores in unincorporated Marin, and requires a 5-cent fee on single-use paper bags. The County relied upon a categorical exemption to CEQA and did not not prepare an EIR. The categorical exemption applies "where the regulatory process involves procedures for protection of the environment." The last California municipality to rely on this categorical exemption was the City of Oakland in 2007, but Oakland's ordinance was overturned because there was not sufficient information on record to defeat the plastics industry's claim that paper bags might be worse for the environment than plastic, which fell within the "unusual circumstance" exception.
Fortunately, Marin County’s ordinance avoids the “unusual circumstance” exception that defeated the City of Oakland’s ordinance, because it eliminates the harm created by plastic bags while also reducing also the amount of paper bags being used through the 5-cent fee.
This ruling opens the door for other cities to move forward more confidently with adopting single-use bag ordinances pursuant to categorical exemptions - and not wasting time and money on needless EIRs!
At Tuesday's hearing, Marin County Superior Court Judge Lynn Duryee will give an oral statement regarding her ruling. Save the Plastic Bag Coalition has indicated that it intends to appeal the decision and Judge Duryee's statement is arguably required to will build the record for appeal.
The road to implementation of Marin County's ordinance is far from over, but let's celebrate this victory while we can!
See the official Green Cities California Press Alert here.