The California Supreme Court today ruled that the City of Manhattan Beach can enforce a local ordinance banning plastic bags in that city.
The ruling ends a challenge funded by plastic bag manufacturers and paves the way for local governments throughout California to move immediately to adopt ordinances banning plastic bags.
"This is an important victory for the environment and common sense," said Mark Murray, Executive Director of Californians Against Waste. "The Plastics industry attempted to exploit California's Environmental Quality Act in order to delay an end to polluting plastic bags. We're pleased that the court shut them down."
The court's unanimous decision in Save the Plastic Bag Coalition (STPBC) vs. City of Manhattan Beach denies the industry's claim that a city must undertake a costly Environmental Impact Report (EIR) prior to adopting ordinances with obvious environmental benefits.
With efforts to ban plastic bags statewide temporarily stalled, the court's decision will open the opportunity to local governments in California to take on plastic bags.
"Plastic grocery bags become plastic ocean pollution," said Assembly Member Julia Brownley. "While I will continue to pursue a statewide ban on plastic bags, the State Supreme Court has said no to the plastics industry and opened the door for other small cities to enact their own local bans."
In its published opinion, the court states, "Substantial evidence and common sense support the city’s determination that its ordinance would have no significant environmental effect. Therefore, a negative declaration was sufficient to comply with the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act."
On the issue of whether or not the plaintiff had standing to sue the City of Manhattan Beach, however, the court agreed with previous trial and appellate court rulings that STPBC had public interest standing. The City of Manhattan Beach passed its ordinance in 2008 but has been delayed by litigation until now.
This precedent-setting victory means that local governments may no longer have to spend unnecessary time and money on EIRs to deal with plastic bag litter for fear of being sued on the grounds of inadequate environmental review.
To see the published opinion, visit the California Courts website. For more on the case, read our blog from the May 4 argument date, see the articles from the Los Angeles Times or Sacramento Bee, or read press releases here and here. CAW's press release is available here.