Don’t be Fooled by Prop 65

alameda plastic bag ban
Photo credit: Dave Bleasdale

Prop 65 is a classic “look here, not over there” distraction tactic by none other than the plastics industry, and they’re banking on their ability to confuse California voters. We’re here to make sure you know better.

Let’s be clear: Prop 65 does not ban plastic bags. It simply requires that the 10 cent charge for paper bags at the checkout stand is sent to a state fund instead of being kept by the store. So what’s wrong with that? The state fund that would be created by Prop 65 is vaguely defined and likely won’t amount to much. We know from the 150+ local bag bans in California that most shoppers quickly make a habit of bringing their own bags to the store instead of buying paper bags for 10 cents. The plastics industry is not in the business of solving our state’s environmental funding issues; Prop 65 is a green washed distraction and nothing more.

Need more convincing? Check out the ten largest contributors to the Prop 65 campaign. Hilex Poly is the old name for Novolex—remember them? They’re the ones who told us they would toss kids’ drawings in the recycling bin when we visited their headquarters in South Carolina earlier this month. The rest of the entities on the list are plastic bag manufacturers as well. NONE of them represent California voters. NONE of them are working to protect California’s waterways and coastlines. NONE of them deserve your vote.

Vote NO on Prop 65 and YES on Prop 67.

Bigger than the Bag: the true promise of a state bag ban

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The devastating effects of plastic bag pollution are very real. A YES Vote on Prop 67 is an investment in the Bay that will produce great benefits for our society, economy, and environment.

Over the past decade, Save The Bay has been fighting to rid the Bay of plastic bags in an effort to aid our long-suffering waterways and ecosystems. And we’ve had some great successes. Most major cities, across the Bay and around California, have banned this prevalent ecosystem-wrecking pollution.

In the cities which have done so, the problem of plastic bag pollution has shrunk drastically. But our biggest victory – SB 270, the statewide bag ban – was robbed by out-of-state plastics manufacturers who couldn’t stand to see their profits chipped away by a massive popular movement demanding better treatment for our waters and wildlife.

Now they’re spending millions to mislead voters about Prop 67, the Nov. 8 ballot measure that will decide the fate of this fundamental legislation. But despite their best efforts, the truth remains – Prop 67 will produce great benefits for our society, economy, and environment.

Plastic bags pose a real threat to the health of our environment and our wildlife.

Plastic bags are devastating to the fragile, interconnected ecosystems of California. Sea turtles eat them, mistaking them for jellyfish, and get poisoned by the toxic chemicals within. They entangle birds and fish. Rather than biodegrade, they break into smaller parts, spreading all over and bio-accumulating in the food chain. The more plastic bags we buy and throw away, the less of a chance we have to rid the Bay and other waters of this pollution.

A claim the plastics industry likes to throw at Prop 67 is that it won’t solve the problem of plastic pollution. But here in the Bay Area we know firsthand that these plastic bag bans work. In San Jose, the number of plastic bags in creeks decreased 71 percent after a citywide ban, and the number of plastic bags in storm drains fell by 69 percent. In Monterey, Save Our Shores reported that the number of plastic bags they picked up during their weekly cleanup events fell from 65 to six, a 90 percent drop. Across the state, across the nation, and around the world, the story remains the same.

Moreover, enacting bag bans would also reduce oil consumption and lower carbon emissions from producing bags. According to a 2013 report by the nonpartisan Equinox Center, a bag ban in the city of San Diego alone would save 9,300 tons of CO2 per year. That’s equivalent to planting 1.2 million trees – for only one city in California. Imagine the savings we would garner if we took this statewide. Voting Yes on Prop 67 will enact a proven method to cut down on ecosystem-choking plastic pollution and reduce our state’s carbon footprint.

Going green makes cents.

Today, if you’re living in an area without a ban, your local grocery store is getting fleeced by Big Plastic. Grocers are being compelled to buy tens of thousands of plastic bags and hand them out, at no charge, to consumers, losing significant amounts of money in the process. But Prop 67 stops that. If the bag ban is enacted, grocers won’t need to buy plastic bags any longer and can instead sell reusable bags (many of which are durable and affordable) and provide paper bags for a 10-cent charge. Don’t Big Plastic confuse you, to ban the bag in California vote Yes on Prop 67 and vote No on Prop 65. 

In the Bay Area, we already know that transitioning consumers from plastic bags to reusable bags has been relatively easy. After San Jose’s bag ban was adopted, for example, reusable bag use increased by an astonishing 1600 percent. This easy switch is not only more sustainable for the environment and local business but it’s also more cost effective for the savvy shopper. A one-time reusable bag purchase is cheaper than paying ten cents for every single paper bag they use.

Bag bans pave the way for a more sustainable future.

More importantly, enforcing such bans can be the gateway to more ambitious change for the betterment of our environment.  If plastic bags are banned, citizens will ask, why isn’t Styrofoam? Why are plastic bottles okay, but plastic bags not? We’ve already seen this dynamic in action.  In the Bay Area, Styrofoam bans followed bag bans in quick succession. In San Francisco, the first city in California to ban plastic bags, Styrofoam and plastic bottles will be prohibited by 2020. Voting Yes on Prop 67 will enable movements such as this to spread across the state.

And if we emphatically block this product from our state, California won’t be the only area affected. It’ll spread to other states and possibly adopted as a nationwide policy. But in order for that to happen, California must lead the way. Voting Yes on Prop 67 will spread the message that we need to get rid of plastic bags, not just here, but in every other locale in the US.

All in all, plastic bags are a blight on our economy, culture, and environment. Ridding ourselves of them will return great dividends. No matter which way Big Plastic spins it, plastic bags choke and poison our beloved Bay critters, emit excessive amounts of greenhouse gases, and clog the Bay. A plastic bag ban here at home could pave the way for a nationwide movement and successfully usher in bans on other harmful products that are toxic to our environment.

The facts are in. The evidence is clear. Don’t mess this up, California.

To ban the bag in California once and for all vote Yes on Prop 67 and vote No on Prop 65.

 

California Enacts Important Climate Change Legislation

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After a long legislative session, Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed a handful of important climate change mitigation and adaptation bills, proving once again that California leads the nation in addressing the challenges of global warming. These bills are critical to continuing the state’s landmark climate policy to cap harmful greenhouse gas emissions that threaten the health of our communities and our natural resources, from San Francisco Bay to the scorched deserts in the east and south.

Senate Bill (SB) 32 directs the State Air Resources Board (ARB) to set emissions limits that reduce greenhouse gas emissions to at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Current law requires the ARB to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. As our state is ravaged by raging wildfires, continued drought, and rising sea levels, with more extreme storms expected in the coming months, SB 32 is the aggressive approach we need to further reduce the fossil fuel emissions that contribute to these conditions.

Questions still remain, however, over the fate of the state’s cap-and-trade program, which is the means of achieving greenhouse gas reductions under the emissions cap. Each company that emits greenhouse gases is required to obtain emissions permits, which can be bought or traded with other companies. If a company reduces its emissions below the cap, it can sell its permits, thereby incentivizing the development of cleaner energy technology. The cap is then reduced gradually each year in order to meet the overall target. Despite the passage of SB 32, the program is currently being challenged in court, and recent rounds of carbon credit sales have failed to raise the anticipated sums of revenue, with both developments making its future uncertain.

Assembly Bill (AB) 197 creates legislative oversight of the ARB, adding two Members of the Legislature to the board as nonvoting members, staggering voting members’ terms, and requiring the agency to prioritize emissions reductions rules and regulations that result in direct emissions reductions at the source – large stationary sources such as refineries and power plants, and mobile sources such as cars and trucks. Critics of the ARB have said the agency does not do enough to reduce these direct-source emissions where they have a disproportionate impact on the communities around them, many of which are low-income communities and communities of color.

Assembly Bill 1550 aims to address this disproportionate impact by ensuring that disadvantaged communities, as defined by the state, are guaranteed 25 percent of the funds in the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, which encompasses the revenues from the state’s cap-and-trade permits auction. In addition, at least five percent of the funds must go to projects that benefit low-income communities adjacent to disadvantaged communities, and an additional minimum five percent must go to projects that benefit low-income households anywhere in the state, regardless of their proximity to disadvantaged communities. These provisions guarantee that those communities most negatively impacted by greenhouse gas emissions will get priority funding to help mitigate those impacts. Save The Bay was proud to support this important legislation, that places environmental justice at the very center of climate change policy.

Our climate is changing, and we must adapt to a “new normal.” That is one reason why we worked hard to pass Measure AA in June: to create a steady stream of funding for important wetland restoration projects along the Bay shoreline that will not only make the Bay cleaner and healthier, but in many places create a natural, cost-effective flood barrier to help protect low-lying communities and critical infrastructure.

We must also couple those adaptation efforts with mitigation policies that reduce harmful emissions at the source, throughout the state. Passage of SB 32, AB 197, and AB 1550 is a significant step in the right direction, and we were proud to support these bills. As we look ahead to the next legislative session, we will work to support policies that build on them and ensure the success of our state’s climate programs.

Our Chance to Uphold California’s Bag Ban

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In 2014 something incredible happened: Californian legislators, environmentalists, community groups, labor unions, and business groups all came together to pass a piece of environmental legislation to ban single use plastic shopping bags. Unfortunately the state law, SB 270, which would have prohibited all grocery stores in California from giving away the often littered, unrecyclable plastic bags, never got the chance to be effective. The out-of-state plastics manufacturers who opposed it spent over 7 million dollars to keep it from ever being implemented. They have tried to stop the ban from taking effect for years, but this November, Californians will have the chance to vote yes to uphold this first-of-its-kind legislation in order to reduce plastic trash throughout California and prevent out-of-state industry from setting state policy in our state.

How did we end up here?

We should have had a state wide bag ban for nearly a year now–SB 270 was passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor Brown in 2014 and was scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2015. Though there had been previous attempts to ban bags at the state level, the 2014 law passed largely because of the example set by highly successful bag bans here in the Bay Area and stronger legislative leadership. The 2014 bag ban had the support of lawmakers from all around the state including every Bay Area Legislator, but wealthy plastics manufacturers from out of state spent millions of dollars to collect signatures for a referendum. Once the plastics industry’s referendum qualified in early 2015, implementation of the bag ban was put on hold.

So even though a statewide bag ban was supported by cities and organizations throughout California, passed by the legislature, and signed by Governor Brown, there are still plastic bags being handed out – ready to blow or float into our waterways and ocean – at stores all around the state.

Local bans paved the way for statewide action

Over 80% of Bay Area residents live in a city or county that has banned plastic bags. Cities across the Bay Area have reported that bag bans are a highly effective way to prevent this plastic trash from entering our environment and endangering fish and wildlife. We know how important bag bans are, which is why it is vital that we all vote YES in November to uphold the bag ban. SB 270 succeeded in the first place, unlike the many bag bills that failed before it, because of political will and popular approval established by the groundbreaking laws here in the Bay Area.

Challenges ahead, but we have the power

To date, out-of-state plastic bag manufacturers have spent over $7 million fighting this law because a statewide ban in California will be a model for the rest of the country. But by blocking our hard-fought policy, bag manufacturers are asking us to pay for the damage done to our environment by their flimsy, throwaway product. We cannot let their greedy interests pollute our waterways and trash our communities. Here are a couple things to keep in mind between now and November, when we will all have a chance to vote YES on the bag ban:

  • The November ballot will be a long one and the bag ban will be somewhere in the middle. Make sure you sign up for our email updates to find out the proposition number once it is assigned and stay updated on opportunities to help support the ban.
  • Don’t be fooled. The plastics industry will continue spending money on misleading information and scare tactics to confuse voters and turn our attention away from what we already know: bag bans are good for the environment and wildlife, and reusable bags are the best alternative.

We know that California voters care deeply about the health of our oceans, bays, waterways and wildlife. We can’t allow state policy to be dictated by out-of-state corporate greed. Stay tuned for more information about the bag ban and how you can get involved, and start talking to friends and family about this important opportunity in November.

From Drought to Downpour

 

An artist’s rendition of California’s flooded State Capitol circa 1862
An artist’s rendition of California’s flooded State Capitol circa 1862

“Extreme river and creek flooding has broken many records, and swept away hundreds of homes”  -CNN, May 2014

“The frequent sight of houses floating, air-like, along the swift current was novel indeed, some of them being upright, some bottom up” -Union Democrat, December 1861

Two similar quotes that strangely tie events from today into our roots from the past. The first quote is from present day Texas, where millions of dollars in infrastructure damage has lead the President to declare the event a major disaster. The second is a piece from our own state’s history, an event not often mentioned in the textbooks or the classroom.

If you grew up in Northern California you’ll undoubtedly remember being given a small pan filled with rocks and soil to sift through in search of that infamous, luminous element known as gold. But how many of you remember being told the stories of our state capitol underwater just a decade after we discovered gold, our own governor having to be rowed from his house to the capitol building for his inauguration, or of the thousands that lost their possessions, property, or even their lives because of a torrential downpour that lasted 43 days straight?

History of a hundred year storm

The flood of 1861-1862 started off as a welcomed rain after a major drought throughout the state. While Native Americans of the Delta and Bay Area warned the post-gold rush era settlers of the floods that were about to ensue, many newly established citizens and towns were ill-prepared for such an event. What started as a quenching relief for many farmers soon turned into their worst nightmare, as the Central Valley turned into an inland lake and swelling rivers took down entire towns, a quarter of the state’s livestock, and thousands of lives.

The floods were so bad that, after attempting to run the state from underwater, legislatures decided to move the capitol from Sacramento to San Francisco until it could recover. While San Francisco was in better shape that the inundated Central Valley, most of the low lying areas around the Bay were covered in water. During the peak of the storm, so much water poured in from the Delta that our Bay shorelines didn’t experience low tide for a week.

Haven’t heard of the 1861-1862 flood before? It’s OK, neither had I until I caught one of Joel Pomerantz’s natural history lectures, but surely this is something we Bay Area residents should be aware of considering this was not some freak event but rather a natural occurrence.

Due for another downpour

Every 100-200 years we get a visit from the deceptively named “Pineapple Express”, or stream of warm air and moisture that starts at the equator and makes its way up the West Coast. What most meteorologists refer to as Atmospheric Rivers, these streams of warm air and moisture are important in the global water cycle and can bring up to four times the annual rainfall amount to areas of California.

A deluge of rain may sound like relief given our current dry state, but the reality would be overwhelmingly damaging. Today one of these great storms is estimated to wrack up $10.4 billion dollars in damages, almost the cost of the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.  What’s worse is that many of these damages would likely be to our shoreline infrastructure and low lying cities on the Bay.

A recent study calls for large scale restoration of San Francisco Bay’s wetlands to help prepare our communities for the next big storm. You see, wetlands act as natural buffers for our communities. One acre of wetlands can hold a million gallons of water – water that would otherwise be in our streets and at our doorsteps if these wetlands didn’t exist. Save The Bay has been working on restoration projects that further help protect our cities from the negative impacts of flooding and support clean Bay water.

While we can’t stop these large storms from occurring, we can educate and better prepare ourselves for when they do arrive. To learn more about the flood of 1861-1862 and what you can do to help support the Bay join us for a restoration event.