Plastic Politics

Stephen Joseph

Stephen Joseph (Photo:

Recently, our friends at the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition sued the City of Manhattan Beach for their plastic bag ban. Led by their bombastic attorney with the affected English accent, Stephen Joseph, the chemical industry and plastic bag manufacturers sued the city over alleged violations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Supposedly, the city’s 100+ page staff report didn’t adequately address alternatives to banning the scourge of the marine environment.

Clearly, the plastic and chemical industries are feeling their oats.  They successfully killed the bills that would have kept the carcinogen BPA (bisphenol-A) out of baby bottles and sippy cups (that will teach those babies to cry), and would have eliminated PFCs (perfluorinated compounds) in food packaging like microwavable popcorn (YUM!). Now the American Chemistry Council is stirring up a backlash to the Seattle 20 cent per bag fee. They’ve even gone to the extraordinary measure to pay individuals two bucks to sign a petition repealing the bag fee.

These massive lobbying and marketing campaigns are paying dividends to the chemistry and plastic manufacturing industries at the cost of human health. Obviously, they are doing the same thing to save the “endangered” plastic bag (only 19 billion new bags in California annually) with the results of their multimillion-dollar “Stop the Bag Tax” campaign still in doubt.

What’s next for the polluters in their fight for truth, justice and the American Way? Do they partner with the Tobacco industry to sue all cities that ban smoking in public places? Maybe they’ll sue the FDA to get phthalates added as a nutrient with minimum daily requirements (whether you like it or not) for all plastic packaged food products. Maybe they’ll sue Portland, Santa Monica and Malibu to force them to use Styrofoam as the least costly alternative under government minimum cost purchasing guidelines.

If their suit against Manhattan Beach is successful, does that mean that cities and counties can no longer pass laws without a full blown EIR? The possibilities are endless. Don’t like a zoning change at the Planning commission? Sue under CEQA. Pesky, traffic calming speed bumps in front of your house? Sue under CEQA. Your local city decides to spend $5K to celebrate Groundhog Day? You got it. Sue under CEQA. 

Seriously, the polluters’ lawsuit against Manhattan Beach is not frivolous because it puts the environment in jeopardy, and perhaps more importantly, it puts the rights of local municipalities to pass laws in jeopardy.

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One Response

  1. […] measure has been stalled by a recent misguided court ruling that required cities’ to complete EIRs if they wanted to remove single-use bags from their […]

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