Environmentalists file suit after Huntington Beach repeals plastic-bag ban


Nowhere has the fight over banning single-use plastic bags taken more twists and turns than in Huntington Beach.


First the city banned the bags, then it repealed the ban. Now, environmental groups have filed a lawsuit against the city for once again allowing plastic bags to be used at grocery and retail stores within in the city limits.


Earlier this month, Southern California environmental groups, including Surfrider Foundation, Orange County Coastkeeper and Californians Against Waste announced they are taking legal action against the City of Huntington Beach in Superior Court for failing to conduct appropriate environmental review on the significant effects of repealing its single-use plastic bag ban.


Instead of analyzing the impressive benefits that have resulted from the bag ban since it took effect in 2013, and disclosing how the repeal will reverse those benefits, as required under the California Environmental Quality Act, the City disregarded its duty to investigate the environmental repercussions of its action and voted to proceed with a Bag Ban Repeal Ordinance on May 4, 2015, the groups say. The City, they note, failed to review impacts on marine life, water quality and aesthetics from the reintroduction of single-use plastic bags into the environment.


“The leadership of Huntington Beach took a step backwards in terms of environmental protection, but what’s worse is that they are enacting legislation in violation of the law,” said Angela Howe, Legal Director of the Surfrider Foundation. “Citizens deserve to know the facts about the environmental harms of single-use plastic bags and how they affect the coastal environment, including their failure to break down in ocean waters and their harm to marine life, such as seals, dolphins and whales, which are killed after ingesting plastic or entanglement in it. Simply put, plastic bags can directly result in permanent waste and death of marine life.”


The move comes amid a statewide fight that saw lawmakers pass a statewide prohibition last year. Since then, opponents of the ban have qualified enough signatures to put the measure to a vote on the November 2016 statewide ballot.


The statewide ban will not go into effect until after voters have their say.