Uploaded: Thu, Jul 30, 2009, 12:57 pm
Palo Alto settles lawsuit over plastic bags
City would keep its bag ban for supermarkets, but would do a full environmental review before adopting future bans
Palo Alto will have to conduct a lengthy environmental analysis should it choose to expand its campaign against plastic bags, according to a settlement the city reached this week with a regional coalition opposing the ban.
The settlement ends three months of negotiations between Palo Alto and the group SaveThePlasticBag.com.
The group, a San Francisco-based coalition of businesses and individuals, has maintained that Palo Alto's recent ordinance prohibiting plastic check-out bags at supermarkets is illegal because the city failed to prepare an environmental impact report before adopting the ban in March.
The group formally filed its lawsuit against the city in April.
Under the settlement, the city will be able to maintain its ban. But any expansion of its scope would have to be accompanied by a complete environmental review.
The city's current ban applies to seven supermarkets, three of which had voluntarily stopped using plastic bags before the ban was adopted. Only Safeway, JJ&F Food Store, Andronico's and Mollie Stone's were required to stop using plastic check-out bags.
Stephen Joseph, the attorney representing SaveThePlasticBag.com, said the group is pleased with the settlement because it ensures that the city's ban on bags will not expand without a full review.
The City Council and staff have consistently indicated that they would like to ban plastic check-out bags from local pharmacies and other stores. The settlement essentially guarantees that the city's quest to expand its bag ban will take longer than officials had hoped.
"It's not worth fighting for two years over four stores," Joseph told the Palo Alto Weekly. "The important thing is that we've stopped the ban on all other stores, pending an environmental impact report."
Don Larkin, Palo Alto assistant city attorney, said the settlement will not impede the city from expanding the scope of its ban on plastic bags.
"It's a good settlement. It'll still enable the City Council to reach all its goals; it'll just take a little longer," Larkin said.
Before enacting the ban in March, the city conducted considerable research on the ordinance's potential environmental impact, he said. Conducting a full environmental review in the future would take months, not years, he said.
In addition, other cities and agencies in the state are looking at similar bag bans, Larkin said. The city could join other municipalities in conducting legal and environmental research, making it more cost effective in compiling an environmental-impact report.
■ Media release by SaveThePlasticBag.com (PDF)
■ Online copy of the settlement (PDF)
Posted by close reader,
a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2009 at 12:03 pm
"OK CR, so its clear you have no proof..." -- I already addressed this, but will elaborate: the claim that increased plastics in our marketplace and in our daily lives directly results in more plastics in our natural environment, including the ocean, is a purely commonsense one. However, you require "proof." Well, there is ample footage of Safeway bags, Crystal Geyser bottles and Bic lighters found floating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or washed up on remote beaches, or in the stomachs of various sea creatures (Web Link) (Web Link#) and increasing documentary evidence of it as well (Web Link). I guess now you'll require proof that the specific Safeway bags in those videos came specifically from Mountain View? To which I ask: Before taking the train, did you also require proof that the specific CO2 molecules found to contribute to global warming were coming specifically from your exhaust pipe?
"...but you want local govt to do something..." -- I want everyone to do something, from governments to individuals. But with so many foot-draggers like you around, I'm not holding my breath.
"...that has no connection to the global issue." -- It has every connection. When you drive your car, Smart Growther, do your car emissions have no connection to the global issue of climate change? (As an aside, I've been very curious to know why you consider yourself a "smart growther.")
"Data? How about asking cities (and their trash company) if they are dumping plastic into the ocean." -- Of course they're not doing that. Is that how you think the plastic is getting out there?
It's natural and unavoidable that some amount of whatever it was we use day to day, plastic or otherwise, winds up as errant trash. Every year people all over the country go and pick up trash along our waterways, including, for example, Stevens Creek, and wind up with millions of pounds of trash to take to landfills. Since plastic floats, it has no problem finding its ways from lakes to rivers to beaches to oceans.
"The burden of proof is on the people making the claim." -- Funny, this is the exact argument used repeatedly by the climate change "skeptics." Scientists and environmentalists are constantly challenged to "prove" that climate change exists and that it is man-made, and barring this undefined proof (mere incontrovertible evidence is never good enough), the skeptics will remain unconvinced and fight all efforts, however modest, to curb the global trend.
"I agree banning/taxing SUPB's will be a small inconvenience for most people. People object because they know this is just one small part of a larger political agenda by the doom and gloom groups." -- True. The "doom and gloom groups" (i.e. biologists, climatologists, physicists, environmentalists, etc.) would like to see many improvements on the way we as a species treat our environment, including a reduction in the gratuitous use of plastics. Bunch of doomers!
"Limiting SUPB's is silly when compared to all of the other plastic bags for purchase." -- Again I'll go with the climate change metaphor: is it silly to take the train instead of driving your car to work? After all, you're just a tiny drop in the bucket -- so small you may as well not bother. This is the logic you're using here. Consider this: a lot of little drops make up the whole bucket.
"I am against regulating what you call an insane amount of plastic production. Who decides this is an insane amount. How about the people that choose to buy plastic? Are they insane because they prefer plastic?" -- We're going in circles now, but as I said in an earlier post, "personal choice" quickly becomes an abstraction in the face of real global hazard. If our air, water, soil, fisheries and so on reach dangerous levels of depredation (and I, and many others more qualified, believe they have, and that the worst is yet to come unless we do something about it) then your "personal choice" suddenly isn't a personal choice at all anymore. It affects everyone else and everything else. Sort of like my original analogy about the killer with the knife.
And to answer your question, yes, people who continue to wantonly make choices leading to environmental depredation, after they have seen the truth up close, are insane. We as a society, I believe, are insane.
"Why cant you convince them to not buy plastic rather than regulating it?" -- I don't know. Why can't I convince you?
"I have a world view that has a lot more respect for personal freedom and choice and respect for others to choose differently. Show a little more respect for the diversity of free voluntary exchange between people." -- You don't know me. I think we should have lower taxes. I think people should be allowed to smoke in bars. I think the cell phone law while driving is stupid. I think marijuana should be legalized. And yet I think, as you do, that murder should remain illegal.
And I think that collectively, we Americans are devolving into something like the killer with the knife.
Sorry for the extra-long post here, Smart Growther. I'm going to let this stand as my last word on the matter, at least this time.
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