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State Supremes to Hear CEQA Case on Plastic Bags

After recently clearing its docket of California Environmental Quality Act cases, the state Supreme Court has accepted a new CEQA case for review. All seven high court justices voted to review the Second District Court of Appeal's decision in Save the Plastic Bag Coalition v. City of Manhattan Beach. In January, the appellate panel ruled 2-1 that Manhattan Beach should have completed an environmental impact report before adopting an ordinance banning the distribution of plastic shopping bags within the city limits (see CP&DR Legal Digest, February 1, 2010). The court ruled that an association of plastic bag manufacturers had legal standing to bring the lawsuit, and that the association presented substantial evidence to support a fair argument that the ordinance would have environmental impacts. The city argues that the coalition brought the suit purely to protect its commercial interests, which is not permissible under CEQA. The city also argues there is no substantial evidence the ban could harm the environment. The state Supreme Court accepted two questions for consideration: Did the association of plastic bag manufacturers have standing to challenge a local ordinance banning the use of plastic bags? Did the trial court err in ruling the ordinance invalid for the failure to prepare an environmental impact report? The Supreme Court's acceptance of the case means the Second District's opinion no longer stands. The case is Save the Plastic Bag Coalition v. City of Manhattan Beach, No. 180720.