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Council to consider proposed bag ban

ENCINITAS — The Encinitas City Council will consider a proposed ban on single-use plastic bags at Wednesday’s council meeting.

A council majority voted in June to direct staff to craft the two-phase prohibition, which would ban grocery stores, pharmacies, liquor stores, convenience stories, city facilities and gas station markets from using distributing plastic bags six months after the adoption. The prohibition would expand to retail stores and farmers markets six months later.

The council majority requested the ordinance be fast tracked to beat the potential passage of a statewide ban, which the state legislature has until Aug. 31 to pass. The statewide ban would preempt cities from passing bag bans unless the city had adopted a first ordinance reading or a motion of the intent to pass such an ordinance by Sept. 1.

The statewide ban, known as Senate Bill 270, would ban plastic bags at grocery stories, drug stores and large retailers by July 1, 2015, and smaller convenience stores and liquor stores a year later. Unlike Encinitas’ proposed ban, the state ban would not affect all retailers.

The fast-tracked proposal also includes a request to have the ordinance exempted from state environmental quality laws, a decision a divided council majority made in June after hearing a consultant’s report that said, among other things, increases in manufacturing and laundry loads associated with increased use of reusable bags would increase greenhouse gases compared to current conditions.

Councilmembers Tony Kranz, Teresa Barth and Lisa Shaffer argued that the consultant study used assumptions that were too conservative, and felt confident that the city could pursue a categorical exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act because the ordinance’s purpose was to protect the environment.

The proposed exemption touts the environmental benefits of similar bans in other countries and the adverse effects of plastic bag use in Encinitas, such as improperly disposed bags ending up in the Pacific Ocean and entangling marine wildlife.

“In coastal communities such as Encinitas, improperly disposed of plastic bags find their way from the California shores and accumulate in the Pacific Ocean with adverse effects,” the exemption states. “Approximately 257 marine species, according to the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission, have ingested or have become entangled in marine debris.”

The City Council meets at 6 p.m. at council chambers, 505 S. Vulcan Avenue.