These 6 States Want to Ban Plastic Bag Bans (Yes, You Read That Right)
Plastic bags—those non-biodegradable menaces that clog up our drawers, waterways and roadways alike—have been public enemy No. 1 in many cities and even entire states which have legislated bans on these single-use pesks. But now, a growing number of pro-plastic states are spearheading bans on bag bans.
Multiple states are considering laws that will block local plastic bag bans. Photo credit: Flickr
As Plastic News reported, it all started last April when Gov. Douglas Ducey (R) signed into law a measure that would stop any local government from putting any restrictions on plastic bags, bottles, foam containers, cans and boxes. State lawmakers who wanted to stop the bans argued that "excessive regulation" on bags and other disposable containers would stifle economic growth. Ducey also signed another bill that would give state legislators the right to ask the attorney general's office to investigate a local policy that is acting contrary to the state law.
A bill that would have prevented cities from banning the use of plastic grocery bags passed in the House but was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon (D) in July. Rep. Dan Shaul (R), who sponsored the bill, had strongly opposed plastic bag bans, such as the one being considered in the city of Columbia.
“There are things that local municipalities can do to benefit their communities,” Shaul said in September. “There’s a whole list of things that fit in that, but I don’t think prohibiting retailers from using a plastic bag is anything anyone should be restricting. It gives ultimate local control to their consumers.”
While no cities in the state currently enforce plastic bag bans, that detail did not stop the Senate from voting to make it illegal for local governments to impose bag bans without getting state approval first. Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter (R) is expected to sign the bill into law any day now. According to Plastic News, Idaho is home to a major plastic film and bag factory.
Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed a new state law this week that prohibits city and county officials from taxing or restricting the use of disposable plastic bags by grocery stores and other retailers, the Associated Press reported. The measure, which immediately takes effect, will stop cities such as Bloomington from considering bag restrictions.
The Indiana ban on plastic bag restrictions is needless state meddling in local control. #Disappointed @GovPenceIN https://t.co/0LmiVFnY63— Julia Spangler (@Julia Spangler)1458905803.0
The state is another step closer to entirely blocking bag bans after the State Assembly "easily approved" a bill that "would strip communities of the right to ban the bags" earlier this month, MPR reported. Like Idaho, the move to pre-empt plastic bag bans comes despite the absence of such bans in any city across the state.
A bill from Sen. Jani Iwamoto (D) called for a state-wide 10-cent fee on single-use paper and plastic bags but the state legislature wrapped up its 2016 session without voting on the bill, according to Plastic News. However, another version is expected to return next year.
Meanwhile, the two states that have actually passed plastic bags bans are facing hurdles. California banned plastic bags outright in 2015, but opponents of the ban have qualified a referendum on the law, which will be decided this November by voters.
Hawaii also has a ban on plastic bags but certain loopholes have allowed the distribution of "reusable" bags—which are just thicker plastic bags—that could actually be worse for the environment.
Students spend their spring break trying to save California's plastic bag ban https://t.co/NxBGRJQfRc https://t.co/DtNlJw4P0h— #NBC7 San Diego (@#NBC7 San Diego)1458978435.0
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One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
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