Aug 12 - CAW Submits Brief Supporting Plastic Bag Supreme Court Case


Californians Against Waste has submitted an amicus curiae to the California Supreme Court in support of Manhattan Beach's plastic bag ban ordinance. Plastic bag manufacturers have tried to slow down momentum in California to ban plastic bags by abusing the California Environmental Quality Act, our development-review law that requires government agencies conduct environmental reviews (EIRs) for projects such as shopping malls and freeways. After San Francisco's landmark plastic bag ban ordinance in 2007, most major cities across California's Coast were lined up to pass similar ban ordinances on plastic bags. But plastic bag manufacturers slowed the momentum to a trickle through a series of lawsuits suspending these ordinances and requiring cities to engage in sometimes years-long EIRs. Los Angeles County, San Jose and other local governments are currently in that process. But Manhattan Beach fought back and has appealed their lawsuit all the way to the California Supreme Court, encouraged in part by a dissenting appellate court opinion by Justice Richard Mosk, son of the noted former Supreme Court Justice Stanley Mosk, saying the lawsuit was a clear abuse of CEQA by polluting manufacturers:

This action to require an EIR was generated by the plastic bag industry for its economic interests, even though it is the plastic bag that has caused environmental concerns. The Legislature and judiciary generally have taken steps to ensure that environmental impacts are given consideration, including when government acts. But that does not mean that we must apply environmental laws in a commercial dispute or when efforts are made to protect the environment in a limited area, just because of some hypothetical, de minimis effects of an ordinance. (Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, supra, 181 Cal.App.4th at p. 546 [Dissent])

Californians Against Waste, represented by Remy, Thomas, Moose and Manley, echoed this gross abuse of environmental law in our amicus curiae:

[The plastic bag manufacturer coalition] submitted no expert testimony or evidence of any kind evaluating the actual impacts of the ordinance proposed by the City. Rather, it submitted several Life Cycle Assessments prepared by various interested parties or for very different purposes, apparently located through internet searches, as evidence that the City’s proposal would cause significant impacts. It bears repeating that these generic studies were not prepared in response to the City’s ordinance or any similar ordinance...Should this Court conclude that the sort of speculative evidence employed in this case constitutes substantial evidence supporting a fair argument that impacts may occur, such a determination would create a precedent that would expand the application substantially beyond its current boundaries...We suggest that such speculation was not intended when the Legislature enacted CEQA.

Should the Supreme Court side with Manhattan Beach and Californians Against Waste, California cities will once again be able to eliminate plastic bag litter pollution without fear of lawsuits.