Anti-plastic-bag forces got a boost today when the California Supreme Court ruled that an environmental impact report is not necessary before a city or county bans the use of plastic shopping bags.
The decision strikes down rulings by trial and appellate courts in Los Angeles in the legal fight over an ordinance enacted in 2008 by the south coastal city of Manhattan Beach banning “point-of-sale plastic carry-out bags.”
Both courts said the city had to prepare an EIR before implementing its ban.
“We disagree,” a unanimous Supreme Court stated. “Substantial evidence and common sense support the city’s determination that its ordinance would have no significant environmental effect.”
Therefore, the court added, the city’s unilateral declaration of no negative impact “was sufficient to comply with the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act.”
In the much-anticipated opinion, the high court, as did the two lower courts, upheld the right of a group of manufacturers and distributors called Save The Plastic Bag Coalition to sue Manhattan Beach over the ordinance.
The court said it disapproves of a 2000 state appellate decision holding that corporations are subject to heightened scrutiny when they file citizen suits. Besides, the justices added, Save The Plastic Bag Coalition, “which represents businesses directly affected by the Manhattan Beach ordinance, has standing in its own right to challenge the city’s analysis of environmental impacts.”
The case has been closely watched by numerous California cities and counties that have or are considering similar measures. San Francisco led the way in 2007 with the nation’s first citywide ban on non-biodegradable plastic bags at supermarkets and chain drugstores.