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SAVE THE PLASTIC BAG COALITION, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. CITY OF MANHATTAN BEACH, Defendant and Appellant.

États-Unis d'Amérique
Type de cour
Nationale - cour supérieure
Jul 14, 2011
Nom du tribunal
Supreme Court of California
Siège de la cour
Los Angeles
Corrigan, Cantil-Sakauye, Kennard, Baxter, Werdegar, Chin, Croskey.
Numéro de référence
No. S180720
Environnement gén.
Mot clé
Planification territoriale
The California Supreme Court’s ruling on this case decided two important issues regarding the interpretation and application of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). First, the Court decided the city of Manhattan Beach was not required to prepare an environmental impact report (EIR) under CEQA before enacting a ban on local retailers’ distribution of plastic bags to their customers. Even more significant, the Court decided the plastic bag industry group bringing the lawsuit had standing to pursue the litigation. An industry group called Save the Bag Coalition filed a lawsuit to overturn the ban enacted in July 2008. The coalition argued that paper bags have a greater negative effect on the environment than plastic bags and demanded an EIR be done before the ban went into effect. The Court ruled on the merits that the city was not required to prepare an EIR before adopting the ordinance banning plastic bags. The decision explains the legal threshold for requiring an EIR on a project or ordinance. During the administrative proceedings, the plaintiff submitted life cycle studies to support its claim that the ban on plastic bags would lead to a switch to the use of paper bags, which require more energy and water to produce than plastic bags, and which require more space in landfills when disposed of. The courts below held that the studies constituted substantial evidence that support a fair argument that the ban may have a significant impact on the environment, thus the city was required to prepare an EIR before it could approve the ban. The Court of Appeal reversed, holding that no EIR was required because "no evidence suggests that paper bag use by Manhattan Beach consumers in the wake of a plastic bag ban would contribute to [the adverse impacts associated with the production and disposal of paper bags] in any significant way". On the standing issue, the Court addressed the key issue of industry group standing for CEQA cases. The lower courts had rejected the city’s argument that the industry group failed to make the enhanced showing required by Waste Management of Alameda County, Inc. v. County of Alameda (2000) 79 Cal.App.4th 1223, 1238 (Waste Management) for corporate entities to bring a citizen suit. In a significant decision, the Court here disapproved Waste Management’s holding that corporations are subject to heightened scrutiny when they file citizen suits. In deciding whether the industry group qualified for “public interest” standing under CEQA, the Court ruled against the city and found the industry group plaintiffs did have standing to pursue the CEQA challenge.
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