On January 4th, the Marin County Board of Supervisors will vote on a single-use bag ordinance. While it’s certainly not the first of such ordinances to be considered, particularly in California, it is unique in one important way: Marin County plans to rely on a categorical exemption to CEQA (click here for more info) and not prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).
The City of Oakland attempted a similar approach last year and lost a lawsuit challenging its ordinance on the grounds that it had not done an EIR. In Oakland’s case, however, the city’s bag ordinance simply banned plastic bags.
Marin County’s ordinance includes a ban on plastic carryout bags and 5-cent charge on paper bags. County supervisors believe that by imposing a charge on paper bags in addition to banning plastic bags, the ordinance neutralizes the argument that if consumers just switch to paper it can be as bad or worse for the environment than plastic, and thus also bypasses the need for an EIR.
Since most cities and counties view EIRs as a mandatory part of passing a bag ban, and the reports can potentially cost tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars for each municipality, other cities will be closely watching what happens in Marin. No doubt the American Chemistry Council will be watching as well.