June 26 - Marin County Plastic Bag Ordinance Upheld on Appeal

For immediate release: June 26, 2013

Contact: Mark Murray (916) 443-5422

Tuesday, in another victory for California’s taxpayers and environment, Marin County’s ordinance banning single-use plastic bags was upheld in appeals court. In addition to upholding the ordinance, the appellate judge ordered the plaintiff to pay the County’s costs of appeal resulting from the frivolous lawsuit.

Marin County’s local ordinance banning single-use plastic bags was challenged in 2011 by attorney Stephen Joseph of the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition on the basis that the County failed to comply with CEQA requirements. The County passed its ordinance using a Categorical Exemption, rather than preparing a full Environmental Impact Report. California Superior Court Judge Duryee found the ordinance "a reasonable legislative and regulatory choice" to protect the environment without causing a significant negative impact. She further found that the County, in passing the ordinance, had correctly determined the project to be exempt based on its actions to protect the environment and natural resources.

Joseph challenged the ruling in California’s First Appellate District Court. Tuesday, Justice William R. McGuiness affirmed the Superior Court’s ruling and further ruled that the defendant, Marin County, is entitled to recover their court costs.

"This ruling affirms the authority of Marin County and other local governments to protect the environment and reduce clean up costs due to the proliferation of plastic bag waste, said CAW Executive Director Mark Murray. "Additionally, the court sent a strong signal to Mr. Joseph and the Plastic Bag Manufacturers by requiring them to cover Marin County’s court costs."

"The message is clear. The Courts have now rejected the last six challenges to local plastic bag ordinances," said Murray. "Communities shouldn’t have to worry about being subject to this kind of intimidation when they make environmentally sound choices. Those considering using these tactics in the future should reconsider based on the strong message that was delivered by this ruling."

Joseph has been the attorney behind several failed attempts to sue local communities for implementing local ordinances. In his unpublished opinion, Judge McGuiness called out Joseph for his arguments:

"In any event, plaintiff’s belated arguments lack merit. Even if the county did not comply with certain aspects of its own guidelines for asserting a categorical exemption, plaintiff has failed to explain how any such noncompliance with the county’s own guidelines constitutes a CEQA violation."

Marin County is one of 77 local communities covered under ordinances banning the distribution of single-use plastic bags. After the recent passage of LA City’s bag ordinance, one in three Californians lives in a community with an adopted local ordinance.

Californians Against Waste acted as a Friend of the Court in supporting Marin’s ordinance.

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Photo Credit: Inland News Today