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Huntington Beach repeals plastic bag ban, gets sued



Environment News

Environmental groups bring lawsuit against City of Huntington Beach

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 3 June, 2015 - Huntington Beach, California - Today in Southern California environmental groups, including Surfrider Foundation, Orange County Coastkeeper and Californians Against Waste today announced they are taking legal action against the City of Huntington Beach in Superior Court for failing to conduct appropriate environmental review on the significant effects of repealing its single-use plastic bag ban. 

Instead of analyzing the impressive benefits that have resulted from the bag ban since it took effect in 2013, and disclosing how the repeal will reverse those benefits, as required under the California Environmental Quality Act, the City disregarded its duty to investigate the environmental repercussions of its action and voted to proceed with a Bag Ban Repeal Ordinance on May 4, 2015, the groups say.The City, they note, failed to review impacts on marine life, water quality and aesthetics from the reintroduction of single-use plastic bags into the environment.

“The leadership of Huntington Beach took a step backwards in terms of environmental protection, but what’s worse is that they are enacting legislation in violation of the law” said Angela Howe, Legal Director of the Surfrider Foundation. “Citizens deserve to know the facts about the environmental harms of single-use plastic bags and how they affect the coastal environment, including their failure to break down in ocean waters and their harm to marine life, such as seals, dolphins and whales, which are killed after ingesting plastic or entanglement in it. Simply put, plastic bags can directly result in permanent waste and death of marine life.”

"Until recently, no city had repealed a bag ban that successfully reduced the volume of hazardous plastics from entering the environment," said Colin Kelly, Staff Attorney at Orange County Coastkeeper.

"Controlling the source of plastics and pollution, through bag bans, cost effectively limits the volume of trash affecting Huntington Beach and eases the burden on taxpayers to remove one of the most common pieces of litter from storm channels and our beaches. Removing common sense controls on single use plastic bags will result in more discarded plastic bags, more pollution in our waterways and beaches, and an increased burden on taxpayers to remedy the problem."

“Our members in Huntington Beach have seen the plastic bag ban work over the past year and a half,” said Mark Murray, Executive Director of Californians Against Waste. “That’s why they’re against this monumental step backward by the City Council, which is putting 99 million plastic bags back into the environment.”

Huntington Beach’s (also known as “Surf City”) original local bag ban ordinance was passed in April of 2013, largely due to the urging of local environmental groups. To date, this is the only local governing agency in California to pass an ordinance to repeal an existing single-use plastic bag ban.
The proposed lawsuit against The City of Huntington Beach will be brought under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) to challenge the City Council’s reliance on an Addendum to the Final Environmental Impact Report that the previous City Council relied upon in passing the bag ban ordinance, which prevented public and expert review and comment on the environmental analysis.

The CEQA suit would seek a determination that the City improperly used an Addendum, and that the Addendum fails to adequately assess the environmental impacts of an additional 99 million plastic bags used per year, and fails to analyze alternatives and mitigation efforts. The environmental groups are represented by Beverly Grossman Palmer of Strumwasser & Woocher LLP and Angela Howe of Surfrider Foundation.

Lauren Zerweck

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