June 7, 2012

San Mateo COWnty has decided, in an abundance of caution, to prepare an EIR on its plastic bag ban. The decision was made because, despite the fact that several courts have upheld negative declarations, the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition has sued San Francisco and some other jurisdictions claiming an EIR is required. See the complaint here. The EIR will cost the County $25,000 which is less cost and less delay than defending a well-financed lawsuit.

The COWnty draft ordinance is similar to San Jose’s model which bans plastic bags and puts a minimum price requirement on paper bags. It would apply to unincorporated County areas only. Our COWnty has taken a concrete step towards regionalism, by inviting other jurisdictions not only in San Mateo COWnty but in Santa Clara County to join in. This would remove the cost for smaller jurisdictions that want an EIR before passing their own bans. Belmont, East Palo Alto, Foster City, Pacifica, Portola Valley, Redwood City, San Carlos, South San Francisco, and Woodside as well as Cupertino, Campbell, Mountain View, and Milpitas are all on board with the San Mateo regional bag ban ordinance effort.

Many cities and counties have adopted ordinances, Alameda County and City, Albany, Berkeley, Dublin, Emeryville, Fremont, Hayward, Livermore, Newark, Oakland, Piedmont, Pleasanton, San Leandro, and Union City. The Alameda County Waste Management Authority adopted its ordinance banning plastic bags and placing a 10 cent price requirement on paper and reusable bags in January of 2012. It goes into effect on January 1, 2013 in unincorporated Alameda County as well as its 14 incorporated cities. Throughout the State, many cities have adopted ordinances: Calabasas, Carpinteria, Dana Point, Fairfax, Laguna Beach, Long Beach, Los Angeles County, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Marin County, Monterey, Pasadena, San Luis Obispo County and City, Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, Grover Beach, Morro Bay, Paso Robles, Pismo Beach, Santa Clara County, Santa Cruz County, Santa Monica and Sunnyvale.

As we have previously reported Woodside has agreed in principle to a County plan to ban throwaway plastic grocery-style bags. Instead, retailers would have to make available for purchase more durable reusable bags or paper grocery sacks. Our friends in other jurisdictions tell us that they quickly became used to bring their totes and that the ban does not pose any shopping obstacles.

We applaud our COWnty leaders for persisting in joining the ban and taking a step towards regionalism and against the bullying tactic of the plastic bag industry.

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