Few communities around the Bay Area have escaped the wave of blustery threats from Stephen Joseph’s “Save the Plastic Bag” group (sorry, but I’m not going to link to it).
As Save The Bay has worked to overcome strong plastic industry opposition to municipal bans on single use disposable plastics that pollute the Bay, that industry and its allies have stopped or delayed restrictions on plastic bags and Styrofoam, including by suing and threatening to sue cities to force lengthy environmental reviews of the policy decision.
Joseph has led most of these threats of litigation. And many communities have spent considerable public resources doing full environmental impact reports under the California Environmental Quality Act. The City of San Jose’s report ran to almost 200 pages.
This kind of review is not cheap. So this tactic isn’t just buying the plastic industry time to keep selling billions of bags in the Bay Area and around the state. It is also costing all of us Bay Area taxpayers many hundreds of thousands of dollars across dozens of communities.
Joseph is much better at getting ink for himself than at winning in court. If you read the decisions in these cases, you’ll routinely find judicial head scratching and even outright mockery of his legal positions. But for some reason, reporters love him. This is a guy who once contacted Save The Bay directly and demanded that we correct public statements that he’s basically repeatedly made himself: that his anti-bag ban work is at the behest of the plastic industry. It’s right here in this absurdly flattering profile of him.
But Marin County rejected Joseph’s threats and rested on the position that there’s no need to deeply analyze any environmental impact here under CEQA. And now the state Supreme Court has upheld the county’s victory over the plastic industry in court.
Although the plastic industry keeps losing these lawsuits, some cities and counties around the state continue to be bullied by this tactic today. So, while Joseph may not be the first to realize it, this blog post isn’t even about him (and yes, the link is to Carly Simon). It’s about spreading this information and hoping to save some of the public’s money, because these expensive reviews are often not needed for municipalities to take action and reduce Bay trash at the source.
With the bag ban trend now reaching as far as Pittsburg in Contra Costa County, time seems to now be on our side.