Marin County's brave move could save California municipalities millions of dollars (on plastic bag bans)!
On January 4th, the Marin County Board of Supervisors will vote on a single-use carryout bag ordinance. This move is brave because Marin County plans to rely on a categorical exemption to CEQA (see below) and not prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). We applaud Marin County its decision! The last California municipality to rely on a categorical exemption to CEQA was the City of Oakland, and Oakland lost the lawsuit challenging its ordinance. But, Marin County's ordinance is very different from what Oakland's ordinance was. Oakland's ordinance simply banned plastic carryout bags at certain retail establishments (and limited information was available on the administrative record).
Marin County's ordinance includes a ban on plastic carryout bags and 5-cent charge on paper bags. Marin County argues that imposing a charge on paper bags diminishes the argument that consumers will just switch to paper, thus avoiding the argument that paper is worse for the environment than plastic -- bypassing the need for an EIR. Also, Marin County's administrative record will presumably be much stronger, given the information available in Green Cities MEA and recent EIRs.
Since EIRs could potentially cost tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars for each municipality, other cities will be watching what happens in Marin!
See this Bohemian article for more information.
15061. Review for Exemption excerpt:
(b) A project is exempt from CEQA if:
(3) The activity is covered by the general rule that CEQA applies only to projects which have the potential for causing a significant effect on the environment. Where it can be seen with certainty that there is no possibility that the activity in question may have a significant effect on the environment, the activity is not subject to CEQA.