Session Chair: Jennie Romer, Esq, PlasticBagLaws.org
Ocean advocates and policymakers should be aware of preemption laws developed by conservative state lawmakers, often at the behest of industry lobbyists and formulated by ALEC, that threaten to block to the adoption and implementation of local plastic pollution reduction laws (plastic bag and foam bans).
Preemption of local plastic pollution control ordinances is an effort that is playing out at the state level of government in the U.S. as a way to quash local environmental efforts. These preemption laws generally prohibit municipalities from adopting local ordinances regulating a particular product, namely bans or fees on carryout plastic bags. More and more commonly, these laws apply more broadly by banning all local ordinances regulating “ancillary containers” (bags, expanded polystyrene foam food containers, etc.). Preemption laws infringe upon municipalities’ right to regulate traditionally “local” fields such as the protection of health and safety, including the power to regulate waste, as well as usurping Home Rule.
This issue encompasses not only plastic pollution but also the loss of local power to corporate interests. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), where corporate lobbyists and state legislators vote as equals on “model bills” that often benefit corporations’ bottom line at public expense, has made preemption part of its new playbook to rein in environmental regulation. The plastics industry (and industry generally) has found that they have more power at the state level and are increasingly focusing legislative efforts on preemption bills in order to block all progress at regulating plastic pollution at the local level. ALEC has developed a model bill specific to banning local regulation of containers and this model is being pursued in several states.
Preemption of regulations relating to plastic bags has been especially prevalent because plastic bag bans have their roots in grassroots activism. As of June 1, 2017, single-use plastic bag ban preemption legislation is currently proposed in Texas and South Carolina. State legislators in Minnesota, Michigan, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Iowa have already preempted regulation of plastic bags, and often all manner of containers, and much of the preemption legislation is identical. The statewide usurpation of “Home Rule” is not only happening with bags and foam foodware; there have been attempts to preempt local action on building efficiency rules, fracking, pesticide regulation, medicine take back programs and environment conservation efforts.
Not only must ocean advocates and policymakers keep a strong on-the-ground presence to continue to pass local single-use plastic bag regulations and foam foodware bans, but they also have to ensure that they have a presence and a voice at the statewide level to challenge the industry lobbyists that threaten to silence local voices and action on the topic of marine plastic pollution. To combat preemption, ocean advocates should oppose statewide legislation that takes away the right of municipalities to improve their environment and continue to push for strong statewide legislation, like the recent passage of the California statewide bag ban. Ocean advocates also need to make sure that strongest possible local laws continue to be adopted and that we diligently track the efficacy of local bag bans and fees and demonstrate how these policies effectively change consumer behavior and reduce the amount of single-use plastic pollution in local parks, streets, beaches, and waterways.
- – Jennie Romer, PlasticBagLaws.org
- – Christopher Chin, Center for Ocean Awareness
- – Angela Howe, Surfrider Foundation
- – Matthew Anderson, City of Coral Gables
Preemption of Local Plastic Pollution Ordinances at the State Level Threatens Effective Marine Debris Regulation
Authors: Jennie Romer (plasticbaglaws.org, United States), Angela Howe (Surfrider Foundation), Christopher Chin (COARE: The Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education)
Jennie Romer, Esq., Policy Consultant & Founder of plasticbaglaws.org – Jennie will moderate the discussion as well as outline state-of-the-art plastic bag and EPS law structures and present a case study on preemption of local plastic bag laws in New York City.
Christopher Chin, Executive Director at The Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education (COARE) – Christopher will discuss strategies for ocean advocates to combat preemption, including having a voice at the statewide level. Ocean advocates must also keep a strong on-the-ground presence to make sure that strongest possible local laws continue to be adopted and diligently tracked the efficacy of these laws to demonstrate how these policies effectively change consumer behavior and reduce the amount of single-use plastic pollution in local parks, streets, beaches, and waterways.
Angela Howe, Legal Director at Surfrider Foundation – Angela will provide an overview of local plastic pollution preemption laws in the U.S., discussing the emergence and evolution of these laws as well as the role that American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has played. State legislators in nine states have already preempted regulation of plastic bags, and often all manner of containers, and much of the preemption legislation is identical. Angela will also provide broader context of the usurpation of “Home Rule,” including attempts to preempt local action on building efficiency rules, fracking, pesticide regulation, medicine take back programs and environment conservation efforts. Angela will then present a case study on preemption on local single-use plastic laws in Florida.
Coral Gables Prohibition on Expanded Polystyrene and Single Use Plastic Bags
Authors: Matthew Anderson (City of Coral Gables, USA )
Marine debris is a serious problem that can affect not only the health of humans and wildlife but it can also have a negative impact on the infrastructure and aesthetics of local communities. The City of Coral Gables is focused on preserving the environment. Coral Gables has over 42 miles of coastline and waterways. The potential impacts that marine debris can have on our city is enormous. As a result, over the last two years the City has passed legislation prohibiting the use of expanded polystyrene and single use plastic bags. Coral Gables became the first city in the State of Florida to prohibit the use of single use plastic bags. The State of Florida has an existing state statue Section 403.7033 that preempts cities from enacting legislation regulating plastic bags. Coral Gables was able to pass legislation due to a court decision finding that Sections 403.708(9) and 403.7033, F.S. relating to plastic bags and packaging unconstitutional. More information on the ordinances is included below. Throughout the process of developing both ordinances, the City made it a priority to work closely with the business community including our local chamber of commerce and business improvement district. The City of Coral Gables Florida would like to request the opportunity to present at the sixth international Marine Debris Conference and talk about our experiences and lessons learned.