Marin County Draws Lawsuit on Bag Ban

Marin County CourtA group of plastic bag manufacturers know as Save the Plastic Bag Coalition has filed a lawsuit against Marin County claiming they should have performed an Environmental Impact Report before passing their bag ordinance. Marin County declared the ordinance did not rise to the level of a full EIR which is the same approach Manhattan Beach took. The same organization sued Manhattan Beach and that case is pending before the California Supreme Court. Los Angeles County and City of San Jose both performed an EIR and have not been sued.

The difference between the two jurisdictions is Marin County placed a mandatory charge on paper bags as well as banning plastic. Manhattan Beach simply banned the use of plastic bags and left paper untouched. Manhattan Beach was ordered to not implement their ordinance pending the outcome of the lawsuit and the same may be true for Marin County. Until such an order is made stores in unincorporated Marin County should still plan for the January 1, 2012 start. CGA will monitor the situation and provide compliance information as it becomes available.

It will be interesting to see if this lawsuit will have a chilling effect on other jurisdictions hoping to ban plastic and require a charge on paper bags without performing an EIR. Santa Cruz County is next in-line to take this path with the City of Santa Cruz right behind. In many ways the question boils down to pure economics for governments – a $150,000 EIR upfront or risk $1,000,000 in legal costs.
Marin Independent Journal news article available here.