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Statement on the Massachusetts Plastic Bag Bill reported out of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture
As advocates for clean air, clean water, open space, public health, and a sustainable future, we are profoundly discouraged by the plastic bag bill that has been reported out of the Legislature's Joint Environment Committee. This is not a matter of being 'disappointed' at a bill that's 'not perfect.' The goal of the bill is to reduce throw-away, single-use bags. Instead, the Committee has reported out a bill that needs to be thrown away. The Committee’s changes strike three main blows against the strong bill originally filed by Rep. Lori Ehrlich and Sen. Jamie Eldridge, HB 771, SB 462:
Blow #1: Despite having insurmountable flaws, this bill asserts state ‘preemption’ and would replace the more than 120 local bag laws enacted in MA so far. It reverses the progress made by the many cities and towns around the state that already have strong bag laws, and will prohibit future local attempts to reduce bag pollution. State preemption is a move used all too often in today's politics to hinder local grassroots action.
Blow #2: This bill did away with the small charge on paper bags included in the original bill. Once you eliminate single-use plastic bags, study after study shows that a modest charge on paper bags is necessary to incentivize a switch to reusable bags and reduce single-use consumption -- the central goal of this bill. Earlier in June, both Maine and Vermont passed laws eliminating single-use plastic bags, and both laws included small charges on paper bags. This combination of eliminating single-use plastic bags and putting a modest fee on paper bags is the most effective way to reduce waste and pollution from single-use checkout bags.
Blow #3: The bill allows for the distribution of thick plastic bags and creates other loopholes. Allowing for thicker plastic bags will create more waste -- this has been proven by studies of poorly-formulated bag policies elsewhere. Allowing for thick bags contradicts the purpose of this bill, which is to reduce plastic waste and promote the transition to reusable bags.
The bill that came out of the Committee will move us backwards -- not only when compared to states like Maine, Vermont, New York, Hawaii, and California, but also when compared to many of the local laws that have already been passed across Massachusetts. Passage of this bill would set a terrible precedent. Massachusetts should be leading the way on environmental issues, not moving backwards.
Nothing we use for an average of several minutes should pollute our environment for centuries. We will work vigorously to restore necessary policy mechanisms to this plastic bag bill as it continues through the legislative process; otherwise, we are better off with no bill at all. In the meantime, we will continue to support the cities and towns who have taken the lead to pass strong local bag laws.
Janet Domenitz, MASSPIRG
Alex Vai, Surfrider Foundation, Massachusetts Chapter
Kirstie Pecci, Conservation Law Foundation
Deb Pasternak, Sierra Club, Massachusetts
Claire Miller, Toxics Action Center
Ben Hellerstein, Environment Massachusetts
Emily Norton, Charles River Watershed Association (continued next page)
Brad Verter, Mass Green Network
Mary Ann Ashton, League of Women Voters of Massachusetts
Vikki Spruill, New England Aquarium
Elizabeth Henry, Environmental League of Massachusetts
Elizabeth Saunders, Clean Water Action
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