On 20 January, 2015 the Huntington Beach City Council voted 6 to 1 to start the process of repealing the city’s plastic bag ban. Councilmembers Mike Posey, Erik Peterson, Billy O’Connell, Barbara Delgleize, Dave Sullivan, and Jim Katapodis voted to repeal the ordinance and Mayor Jill Hardy voted to keep the ban.
The agenda item that was voted on instructs the city manager to begin the repeal process including preparation of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) which is estimated to cost $5,000. The EIR is expected to take between two and three months to complete, and when completed, the issue will go back to council for final approval.
The proposal to repeal the plastic bag ban was put on the council agenda by Councilman Mike Posey who expressed that he and others have issues with what they believe is overreach by the previous city council. (Carpio, Plastic bag ban repeal process starts in Huntington, 2015)
The plastic bag ban has been in effect since November 1, 2013 and prohibits grocery and convenience stores from distributing single-use plastic bags to customers and requires a minimum fee of 10 cents for paper bags. (Carpio, New councilman targets H. B. plastic bag ban for repeal, 2014)
During the Public Comment period at the January 20, 2014 Huntington Beach City Council meeting a total of 46 people spoke on the agenda item to repeal the HB plastic bag ban.
12 persons spoke in support for repealing the bag ban and 35 spoke in favor of keeping the plastic bag ban. It should be noted that of the 35 speaking in opposition, that the majority identified themselves with one or more environmental organizations or were from out of town.
Supporters for repealing the Plastic Bag Ban made the following points summarized as follows:
- That participation by out-of-town activists is not appropriate and that it is not right that outside groups should try to control the bag ban issue in Huntington Beach.
- That two popular City Council incumbents lost their last election because they did not want to give the people a chance to vote on the issue.
- That the ban was wrong headed and that it was heavy handed government and forced on Huntington Beach residents by four member of the city council.
- That the Bag Ban lacked metrics and benchmarks to determine its effectiveness.
- That people who use public transportation don’t always have reusable bags with them.
- That the issue is one of freedom and liberty and that the citizens of Huntington Beach are adults and deserve to be treated like adults who can make their own choice.
Included in the group of 12 who spoke in favor of repeal was California State Assemblyman Travis Allen (Assembly District 72) from Huntington Beach and a 20 year resident. Assemblyman Allen stated: “I am happy to be here in support of repealing the plastic bag ban. When presented with scientific concerns over public health implications, the burden on our local residents, jobs lost in California, certain members from the previous city council chose political expediency and voted for the plastic bag ban in order to appease narrow interest groups. Plastic Bag bans are narrowly focused; they overlook the broader negative consequences to Californians.”
Assemblyman Allen went on to state: “As a surfer and a conservationist, I care about our environment especially our ocean, but I can’t support political efforts that are not based on sound science. The facts indicate that these bans maybe exposing California consumers to health risks while instituting a new regressive regulation on consumers.”
Assemblyman Allen continued: “So simply put, this bag ban limits consumer choice, and negatively impacts our local businesses. In addition, it does not address the true issue at hand. And this is the real issue. The plastic bag ban in Huntington Beach is an ill-advised attempt at social engineering by imposing costly and burdensome requirements on the residents of the community. While we all understand the need to be environmentally conscious, when it comes to California consumers and our Huntington Beach residents, we should not cut corners, burden our people and ignore the negative consequences of bag bans.”
Opponents of the bag ban repeal and who wanted to keep the current plastic bag ban in place made the following key points summarized as follows:
- That Huntington Beach is “Surf City USA” and is a crown jewel along California’s coast.
- That Huntington Beach is a tourist destination and tourism provides jobs and income.
- That there is a moral obligation to the environment and to keep our beaches clean.
- That we need to think of the future and that the next generation should not have to deal with all the trash.
- That plastic bags are an economic and pollution issue not a freedom and liberty issue.
- That last fall’s election was not a referendum on the plastic bag ban.
- That a plastic bag ban is a move in the right direction to reduce plastic consumption.
- That the bag fee is an important reminder to bring reusable bags.
One of the opponents of the repeal effort, Jeff Kaufman, a member of the Surfrider Foundation stated that their organization hosts 20-30 beach cleanups every year and do it for free. He stated that there are as many as 350 volunteers who collect approximately 1.5 lbs. of trash each for a total of 525 lbs. per cleanup.
One opponent suggested a compromise, ban the thin-film plastic bags and eliminate the fee on store provided paper bags.
Four students from The Pegasus School in Huntington Beach, with a strong emphasis on taking responsibility “for the future of the planet and the inter-connectedness that binds us all together”, also spoke in opposition to the bag ban repeal. The students from both the 7th and 8th grade delivered their speeches with courage and self-confidence. (Pegasus Middle School, 2015)
Mayor Jill Hardy gave Councilmember Mike Posey the floor to begin discussing the agenda item to repeal the Huntington Beach plastic bag ban. Councilmember Posey stated that the government conspired with the grocery industry and paper bag manufacturers to institute a 10-cent charge to pay for the higher cost of paper bags when plastic bags are banned. He stated the fee is punitive and designed to retrain you. We should all stand up to that and make our own choice, we are grownups.
Posey asked the question why we are stopping with banning plastic bags. Why not diapers or smoking in cars? He stated that his favorite economist is Thomas Sowell who said that “Weighing benefits against costs is the way most people make decisions — and the way most businesses make decisions, if they want to stay in business. Only in government is any benefit, however small, considered to be worth any cost, however large.” And the cost is convenience and the cost of freedom. The fee creates resentment.
Posey went on to state that if the goal is to improve the environment the ordinance fails to deliver. The EIR acknowledges that emissions of greenhouse gases will increase but to an acceptable level. When is that OK? He also stated that the government has no business instituting price controls. WIC and SNAP clients don’t pay for bags!
Councilmember Billy O’Connell also stated that the main issue for him is personal freedom.
Councilmember Peterson stated that his main issue is also personal freedom and responsibility. He said someone told him that that is old school. Personal freedom and responsibility is not old school, it’s the Constitution. He stated his responsibility is to protect our rights and the Constitution. How we carry our groceries home is our responsibility and not the critics. He also stated that both the plastic bag companies and the grocers are making money.
Councilmember Dave Sullivan stated that the 10-cent bag fee is a bribe, without it the grocers would be here to repeal the ordinance.
Councilmember Barbara Delgleize stated that the ordinance is not well thought out. And that the 10-cent fee is what did it for her. She stated that Manhattan Beach and Dana Point have no fees associate with their bag bans. She also applauded Surfrider Foundation for the beach cleanups the group performs. She also stated that you have to think of unintended consequences.
Councilmember Jim Katapodis stated he was in favor of repealing the bag ban and let the people decide the issue.
Mayor Jill Hardy stated she was opposed to repealing the bag ban because she thought it was a public good, like clean air and clean oceans. She disagreed with the statement that the bag ban was not well thought out, and stated that the ordinance was copied from the city of Long Beach and that an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was added. She also stated that it is better to err on the side of the environment. That plastic does not biodegrade. She also stated that the purpose of the fee was to support the merchants and to discourage bag use.
Carpio, A. C. (2014, January 14). New councilman targets H. B. plastic bag ban for repeal. Retrieved from HB Independent: http://www.hbindependent.com/news/tn-hbi-me-0115-plastic-bags-20150114,0,7397563,print.story
Carpio, A. C. (2015, January 21). Plastic bag ban repeal process starts in Huntington. Retrieved from HB Independent: http://www.hbindependent.com/news/tn-hbi-me-0122-plastic-bags-20150121,0,279279.story
Pegasus Middle School. (2015, January 22). Pegasus Students Speak at Huntington Beach City Council. Retrieved from The Pegasus School: http://thepegasusschool.org/podium/default.aspx?t=204&nid=767733&bl=/default.aspx