Last night, the Santa Monica City Council took statewide leadership on the single-use bag issue by opting to fund an EIR that needs to be completed if the city is to adopt its long-awaited ordinance to ban plastic bags and charge a fee for paper bags at retail outlets.
The 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 borders.
With a slew of progressive cities faced with the prospect of funding individual EIRs, the state’s Ocean Protection Council had set aside $70,000 for a Master Environmental Assessment to provide cities and counties with the environmental impact information needed for them to easily comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requirements.
Unfortunately, the Governor froze OPC funds for the assessment due to the budget crisis.
As a result of state inaction, the Santa Monica City Council stepped into the void last night by unanimously approving $60,000 in funding for an EIR.
The city already had the strongest single-use bag reduction ordinance in California, but council members delayed their final vote because of the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition’s successful CEQA lawsuit against Manhattan Beach over its plastic bag ban ordinance. Richard Bloom introduced the funding measure, with strong backing from fellow councilmember Kevin McKeown.
Now Santa Monica will complete the EIR and a nexus study to determine the appropriate paper bag fee and use of fee funds. When these studies are completed, Santa Monica will likely approve the draft ordinance and set a statewide example for how local government can provide environmental leadership on the plastic marine debris crisis. Hopefully, the ordinance and studies will be approved by the end of the year.
It’s reassuring to see that Santa Monica leaders haven’t been intimidated by the plastic industry, nor were they complacent in waiting for marine debris leadership from the state.