Environmental groups sue H.B. over repeal of plastic bag ban

This post has been corrected, as noted below

Three California environmental groups are suing Huntington Beach, claiming that the city unjustifiably repealed its ban on plastic bags.

The Huntington Beach/Seal Beach chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, Costa Mesa-based Orange County Coastkeeper and Sacramento-based Californians Against Waste filed a claim Wednesday in Orange County Superior Court, stating that the city failed to prepare a proper environmental impact report analyzing the effects of lifting the ban, said Angela Howe, an attorney representing the group.

“[The city] did a 10-page addendum to the original environmental impact report, which was issued with the 2013 bag ban itself,” she said. “The addendum breezes through all the issues and doesn’t put any analysis into what the real harm will be from this new setting.”

Howe said the city states in the addendum that about 99 million single-use plastic bags would be recirculated into the city.

The nonprofits want the city to rescind the repeal and conduct a full environmental analysis of the possible effects of lifting the ban.

“[The repeal] is definitely a step backward in terms of environmental protection,” Howe said. “But what’s worse is the way the city went about repealing it. They just disregarded their duties under the California Environmental Quality Act.”

Huntington Beach City Atty. Michael Gates said after reviewing the suit on Wednesday that  the claim is “the same basis as any environmental report challenge” and that there is “nothing significant to the challenge.”

The city’s plastic bag ban, as well as a 10-cent fee for using paper bags, went into effect in November 2013 as a way to reduce litter, especially at the beach.

Many residents considered the ban government overreach, and the City Council finalized its repeal May 4. The repeal went into effect Wednesday.

The repeal process began in January when Councilman Mike Posey, who was elected last November along with three other new council members, proposed it in light of a statewide effort backed by about 800,000 residents to put a referendum about the state’s plastic bag ban on the November 2016 ballot.

“[The city] should have not banned the bags in the first place because there were no environmental reasons to enact a bag ban and there were no metrics to measure its efficacy,” Posey said Wednesday. “This isn’t about the environment.”

In March, Assemblyman Matthew Harper (R-Huntington Beach) introduced two bills aimed at repealing the statewide bag ban as well as the 10-cent fee on paper bags.

Harper, a former Huntington Beach mayor, represents the 74th Assembly District, which includes Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Irvine, Laguna Beach and Laguna Woods.

[For the record, 9:17 a.m. June 3: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that an environmental impact report's addendum says 99,000 single-use plastic bags would be recirculated into the city. The correct figure is 99 million.]

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