Connect with us

Politics

California's war on plastic bag use seems to have backfired. Lawmakers are trying again

Published

on

California's war on plastic bag use seems to have backfired. Lawmakers are trying again

It was a decade ago when California became the first state in the nation to ban single-use plastic bags, ushering in a wave of anti-plastic legislation from coast to coast.

But in the years after California seemingly kicked its plastic grocery sack habit, material recovery facilities and environmental activists noticed a peculiar trend: Plastic bag waste by weight was increasing to unprecedented levels.

Aggressive and impactful reporting on climate change, the environment, health and science.

Advertisement

According to a report by the consumer advocacy group CALPIRG, 157,385 tons of plastic bag waste was discarded in California the year the law was passed. By 2022, however, the tonnage of discarded plastic bags had skyrocketed to 231,072 — a 47% jump. Even accounting for an increase in population, the number rose from 4.08 tons per 1,000 people in 2014 to 5.89 tons per 1,000 people in 2022.

The problem, it turns out, was a section of the law that allowed grocery stores and large retailers to provide thicker, heavier-weight plastic bags to customers for the price of a dime.

“It was a conscious decision to create a pathway for a type of reusable bag that barely existed,” said Mark Murray, director of Californians Against Waste, an environmental organization. “It was just emerging in the marketplace, but it happened to be made by a couple of California companies … which the manufacturers claimed they could certify as being reusable.”

He said the bags were made of 20% recyclable material and the manufacturers said they could be recycled at the end of their “useful life. … So we said, all right, fine. We’re gonna put that specific criteria into the law.”

“That experiment failed,” Murray said.

Advertisement

“It was a gaping hole,” said Mark Gold, director of Water Scarcity Solutions, Environmental Health at the Natural Resources Defense Council who worked on the original legislation — SB 270 — while he was with the organization Heal the Bay.

These “reusable” bags are made from a material known as HDPE, which is thicker and heavier than the LDPE plastic bags of yore. And although both materials can be recycled — and in commercial and agricultural settings often are recycled — they are generally not in residential and consumer settings, Murray said.

“Basically what happened is that plastic bag companies invented these thicker plastic bags that technically meet that definition of reusable but are clearly not being reused and don’t look like reusable bags and which just circumvent the law’s intent,” said Jenn Engstrom, CALPIRG’S state director.

Now, California legislators are hoping to correct that error by passing a law that closes that loophole and bans those thick plastic bags offered at the checkout line.

“The idea is to go back and redefine reusable bags as a way to get rid of all those setbacks that we’re now seeing very commonly in grocery stores,” Engstrom said.

Advertisement

Thick plastic bags are “not what consumers demanded when they overwhelmingly voted to support California’s bag ban at the ballot box when the policy was challenged,” Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) told reporters recently in reference to Proposition 67, a 2016 ballot measure that would have negated the 2014 law.

“Californians want less plastic, not more.”

The proposed legislation was co-authored by Allen, Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda) and Sen. Catherine Blakespear (D-Encinitas).

Research has shown that the plastic problem is growing.

Plastic has been found everywhere scientists have looked: From the deepest oceanic trenches to the highest alpine peaks. Petroleum-based plastics do not biodegrade. Over time, they break down into smaller and smaller pieces — known as microplastics, microfibers and nanoplastics — and have been found in household dust, drinking water and human tissue and blood.

Advertisement

These small plastic pieces also carry chemicals and heavy metals known to cause illness and disease.

“If you’ve been paying attention and reading the news, looking around, you realize that we are literally choking our planet with plastic waste,” Blakespear said at the news conference. She noted that 5 trillion bags are used every year across the globe — and that the average use time per bag is 12 minutes.

Part of the issue has to do with the promises that product manufacturers made about recycling, and the hard realities of plastic collection and reuse. In 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that just 8.7% of all plastics were actually recycled.

In 2022, California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta opened an investigation into the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries for their alleged role in causing and exacerbating a global crisis in plastic waste pollution, and for deceiving the public into thinking recycling could solve the problem of plastic waste.

Allen and Engstrom said states such as New Jersey and New York followed California’s move toward banning plastic bags but learned from California’s mistake and crafted legislation to close the loophole.

Advertisement

“There’s this virtuous cycle of dialogue between those states that want to do the right thing where we we build on each other’s work and almost challenge each other” to write effective, all-encompassing laws, Allen said.

He also said he anticipates a pretty clear road for this legislation as it moves through the Assembly and Senate, in large part because it is supported by the California Grocers Assn.

Daniel Conway, the association’s vice president for government relations, described the original plastic bag ban legislation as “revolutionary,” but “at the same time, I think like most good laws, you have to take a look and adapt to changes in the world that we live in.”

Gold wasn’t surprised the first law didn’t work.

“This is what happens when you try to fight plastic one item at a time,” he said. “It’s just not effective at stemming the plastic problem.”

Advertisement

He said a far better approach was SB 54, a bill that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law in 2022.

That sweeping law seeks to phase out single-use plastics through a policy concept known as Extended Producer Responsibility, which shifts the onus of waste from consumers, towns and cities to companies manufacturing products with environmental impacts.

The law also grants plastics companies extensive oversight and authority in terms of the program’s management, execution and reporting, via a Producer Responsibility Organization, which will be made up of industry representatives.

The legislation requires that by Jan. 1, 2028, at least 30% of plastic items sold, distributed or imported into the state be recyclable. By 2032, that number rises to 65%. It also calls for a 25% reduction in single-use plastic waste by 2032 and provides CalRecycle with the authority to increase that percentage if the amount of plastic in the economy and waste stream grows.

In the case of expanded polystyrene, that number needs to reach 25% by 2025. If the number isn’t hit, the ubiquitous, hard-to-recycle foamy plastic will be banned.

Advertisement
Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Politics

Special attorney hired by Fani Willis to help prosecute Trump donated big bucks to her campaign

Published

on

Special attorney hired by Fani Willis to help prosecute Trump donated big bucks to her campaign

An expert Georgia prosecutor Fani Willis retained to help prosecute former President Trump donated $4,300 to her campaign for public office, records show. 

John Floyd, a prominent Atlanta attorney and partner at Bondurant Mixson & Elmore, was retained by Willis in 2021 to help her prosecute the former president. Floyd is one of the leading experts in Georgia’s intricate and complex racketeering statutes at play in the sweeping case against the former president. 

One expert told Fox News Digital that while Floyd’s donations present no ethical, legal or conflict-of-interest problems, the previous campaign donations could add to the mounting “optics” problems for Willis. 

According to public records, Floyd donated to Willis’ campaign for district attorney twice — $2,800 on March 20, and $1,500 on June 25, 2020, for a total of $4,300.

BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS AFTER WILD 2-DAY HEARING ON FANI WILLIS AFFAIR: ‘WHAT’S DONE IS DONE’

Advertisement

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis testifies during a hearing in the case of the State of Georgia v. Donald John Trump at the Fulton County Courthouse Feb. 15, 2024, in Atlanta. (Alyssa Pointer)

“John Floyd’s donating to Willis’ campaign and then subsequently serving as her special RICO prosecutor present no ethical, legal or conflict-of-interest problems, regardless of his political leanings or affiliations,” said John Shu, a constitutional law expert who served in both the George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush administrations.  

5 EXPLOSIVE MOMENTS FROM FANI WILLIS’ HEATED TESTIMONY IN TRUMP FULTON COUNTY CASE: ‘IF THIS HAPPENS AGAIN …’

“Floyd is a well-known and well-respected litigator and RICO expert, and others from his law firm also donated to Willis’ campaign. Besides, there’s no way that any of them could have known in the spring and summer of 2020 that a Trump RICO case even would exist,” Shu added.

But, Shu said, “Willis created huge optics and conflict-of-interest problems for herself when she hired Nathan Wade, with whom she admitted to having a romantic relationship, regardless of when the relationship started,” Shu said. 

Advertisement

“Wade apparently has no felony or RICO [Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations] experience, and Willis is paying him $100/hour more than she is paying Floyd,” Shu said. 

nathan wade

Special prosecutor Nathan Wade testifies during a hearing in the case of the State of Georgia v. Donald John Trump at the Fulton County Courthouse Feb. 15, 2024, in Atlanta.  (Alyssa Pointer-Pool/Getty Images)

“She wasn’t required to disclose Floyd’s donations, and they’re a matter of public record anyway, but now they exacerbate the already-bad Wade situation. She would have been better off being as transparent as possible and disclosing everything from the beginning,” Shu noted.

Both Willis and Wade confirmed they had a relationship but denied allegations of wrongdoing. Both testified in court last week that Wills always paid Wade back for her share of their travel in cash and said no receipts exist for those reimbursements.

Their testimony about the start of their relationship contradicted one witness who said she had “no doubt” that Wills and Wade’s “romantic” involvement started in 2019, before Wade was hired in 2021. 

Floyd told Fox News Digital in an email his campaign contributions “were made long before the election and could not have been related to events that had not occurred and could not have been anticipated at that time.

Advertisement

FULTON COUNTY DA FANI WILLIS ACCUSED OF LYING ABOUT TIMING OF AFFAIR WITH TRUMP PROSECUTOR

 “I contributed to Ms. Willis’ campaign because I knew from personal experience, including a seven-month trial as her co-counsel in 2014-15, that she would make a good district attorney. The voters reached the same conclusion, voting out a four-term incumbent,” Floyd said. 

Judge Scott McAfee

Judge Scott McAfee at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta Feb. 15. (Alyssa Pointer, Getty Images)

Floyd added that he had previously served as a special assistant district attorney under DAs affiliated with both political parties and under an attorney general who was elected as a Democrat but subsequently changed his affiliation to Republican. 

He then served under his successor, a Democrat. As a special assistant district attorney, Floyd said he helped prosecute a sheriff who was elected as a Democrat. 

“No one has questioned my objectivity in any of those matters. There is no reason to be concerned about it now,” Floyd said. 

Advertisement

Public records also show that Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, who is presiding over the Trump case and will determine if Willis’ should be disqualified from prosecuting Trump and his co-defendants, also donated to her campaign. 

In 2020 — prior to his judicial appointment while he was an assistant U.S. attorney at the Justice Department — McAfee donated $150 to Willis’ campaign.

McAfee held a two-day hearing last week to review evidence for a motion to disqualify Willis from the case. 

A bombshell admission by the defense’s key witness, Terrence Bradley, the former law firm partner and divorce attorney for Wade, came after he avoided answering certain questions, citing attorney-client privilege. Judge McAfee said he would hold an “in-camera” meeting with Bradley to determine if his privilege assertions are accurate.

McAfee said Bradley’s admission reopens questions about what Bradley refused to answer about what he knew about Wade and Fani Willis’ romantic relationship and when he knew. Bradley refused to answer, citing attorney-client privilege.

Advertisement

“Mr. Bradley previously testified that the reason he left the firm was totally and completely covered by privilege. When asked by the state, he went into a factual scenario that, to my mind, I don’t see how it relates to privilege at all. And so now I’m left wondering if Mr. Bradley has been properly interpreting privilege this entire time,” Judge McAfee said.

McAfee is expected to determine whether Bradley should take the witness stand again further evidentiary review.

Neither Willis nor McAfee returned Fox News Digital’s request for comment. 

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Politics

Column: Alabama's highest court declared frozen embryos people. The U.S. Supreme Court is to blame

Published

on

Column: Alabama's highest court declared frozen embryos people. The U.S. Supreme Court is to blame

The Alabama Supreme Court’s breathtakingly arrogant, slapdash and pernicious opinion conferring personhood on newly formed embryos vividly illustrates the consequences of another reckless decision: the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe vs. Wade.

The Alabama court held last week that fertilized ova cryogenically preserved for couples having difficulty conceiving are legally and morally equivalent to newborn babies and, for that matter, 20-year-old adults. According to the court, all are human beings protected under Alabama law to precisely the same extent.

The decision clears the way for wrongful death lawsuits brought by couples whose embryos were destroyed by a patient who wandered into an in vitro fertilization clinic through an unsecured entrance, picked up several frozen fertilized eggs and, shocked by their cryogenic temperature, immediately dropped them on the floor. Reversing the trial court, the Alabama Supreme Court held that this conduct could be subject to a wrongful death claim, rendering it indistinguishable from, say, the death of a 2-year-old negligently left in a sweltering car.

Astonishingly, the sole focus of the court’s analysis was whether Alabama’s wrongful death law encompasses “extrauterine children — that is, unborn children who are located outside of a biological uterus at the time they are killed.” The court did not even attempt to wrestle with the distinction between a just-fertilized egg — what biologists call a blastocyst, a ball of up to a few hundred cells measuring a fraction of a millimeter in diameter — and a fully formed child born at term.

It’s customary to note the parade of horribles that could be occasioned by such an extreme decision. But here the parade has already begun.

Advertisement

Alabama’s largest hospital announced Wednesday that it would no longer offer would-be parents in vitro fertilization procedures due to the substantial threat of criminal liability for mishandling fertilized eggs. Other providers followed suit Thursday. Medical personnel who try to help couples conceive have been suddenly recast by the courts as potential murderers.

The immediate consequences don’t end there. Women who use intrauterine devices or morning-after pills, which can affect fertilized eggs, are in the eyes of Alabama law rank baby killers.

The court’s supposed legal opinion in fact rests on the tenet that life begins at conception, a matter of religious faith to which only a small minority of the country subscribes.

Chief Justice Tom Parker’s concurring opinion employs quotations and teachings from Scripture as if they had the legal force of the Bill of Rights. Passages from Genesis and Exodus, various theological tracts, Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards take their place alongside the writings of U.S. Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Neil M. Gorsuch. All are marshaled in support of the view that “God made every person in his image… and human life cannot be wrongfully destroyed without incurring the wrath of a holy God, who views the destruction of His image as an affront to Himself.”

But apart from the wrath of God, there is no attempt to rationalize the legal equation of a frozen, formless collection of cells with a living person. The court simply assumes it away with the syllogistic reasoning that Alabama’s statutory law specifies that human life includes “unborn” life.

Advertisement

Such ham-handedness undermines the entire opinion. The critical question for the state is not whether an embryo of any particular age can be said to be, in some sense, alive; it’s whether it is a human being deserving of the rights and protections accorded to all of us, which is a far broader and more complicated designation.

A stadium full of theologians, philosophers, ethicists and politicians couldn’t come up with an authoritative answer to that question. And in the absence of such an answer, how can the state impinge so deeply on the liberty of women and aspiring parents?

It’s in that sense that the Alabama Supreme Court’s opinion can be traced directly to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The idea of shoving this tendentious religious tract down Americans’ throats would have been a nonstarter under Roe vs. Wade, which asserted the constitutional liberty interests of women against an overreaching, moralistic state.

Post-Dobbs, those rights are featherweight. The outrage belongs with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ill reasoning and grotesque overreach.

Nor is Alabama the only state purporting to enshrine the fundamentally religious position that human life begins at conception in law. Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri and Oklahoma issued similar proclamations in the wake of Dobbs.

Advertisement

The Alabama Supreme Court takes this malign presumption to its logical end, stripping every American in its jurisdiction of the right to make their own decisions on a matter of the highest moral and practical import. That’s the antithesis of liberty.

Harry Litman is the host of the “Talking Feds” podcast. @harrylitman

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Politics

A 30-year-old North Carolina education funding argument is back in the state Supreme Court

Published

on

A 30-year-old North Carolina education funding argument is back in the state Supreme Court

Longstanding education funding litigation is returning to North Carolina’s highest court hardly a year after a majority of justices — all Democrats — agreed that taxpayer money could be moved to spend on addressing schooling inequities statewide without the express approval of legislators.

What’s apparently changed to permit Thursday’s scheduled oral arguments at the state Supreme Court is its composition. A few days after the court’s milestone 2022 ruling, registered Republicans won back a majority on the seven-member court after success in statewide elections for two seats.

With the partisan shift having taking effect, the five GOP justices agreed last fall to consider additional arguments sought by Republican legislative leaders opposed to the 2022 decision. Those lawmakers contend only the General Assembly can appropriate state funds.

NORTH CAROLINA BECOMES 9TH STATE TO PASS UNIVERSAL SCHOOL CHOICE, THE FIRST TO DO SO WITHOUT GOP TRIFECTA

The justices wrote that Thursday’s matter would be narrowed upon whether Superior Court Judge James Ammons, the latest to oversee the litigation originating almost 30 years ago, had authority last spring to enter an order declaring the state owed $678 million to fulfill two years of an eight-year plan.

Advertisement

But legal briefs filed for Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore essentially seek to overturn the November 2022 decision by the then-Democratic-controlled court. Action by Ammons’ predecessor, the late Judge David Lee, who approved the initial $5.4 billion plan and ordered some taxpayer funds be moved, served as the focus of the 2022 ruling.

The legislators’ attorneys say there’s never been a legal determination that school districts beyond rural Hoke and Halifax counties had failed to live up to requirements, affirmed by the Supreme Court in 1997 and 2004, that the state constitution directs all children must receive the “opportunity to receive a sound basic education.” And, the lawyers argue, school funding decisions are political questions that judicial branch must avoid.

The North Carolina State Capitol is seen in Raleigh. Education funding litigation regarding whether a trial judge can move taxpayer money to address schooling inequities statewide without the approval of legislators is returning to North Carolina’s Supreme Court. (Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

A host of other legal parties, including several school districts, say Ammons’ statewide order must be upheld and implemented. They say it’s the judiciary’s job to fix statewide constitutional deficiencies in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade instruction that the executive and legislative branches failed to address.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is not a legal party in the case but supports carrying out the plan that his administration helped create.

Advertisement

The attorneys supporting the plan — which in part includes funding to improve teacher recruitment and salaries, expand pre-K and help students with disabilities — argue that Moore and Berger are trying to relitigate the 2022 decision, but it’s well past time procedurally to rehear the matter.

The justices were unlikely to rule from the bench at the close of oral arguments. The court’s next opinion date is March 22. The new Republican majority has ruled favorably for GOP legislators by striking down previous redistricting decisions and upholding a photo voter identification mandate.

Education and civil rights advocates scheduled a rally outside the Supreme Court building while the case was heard.

The litigation began in 1994, when several school districts and families of children sued and accused the state of state law and constitutional violations. The matter often has been referred to as “Leandro” — for the last name of one of the students who sued.

Advertisement

In requests repeating from the 2022 case, lawyers for the school districts asked that Associate Justice Phil Berger Jr. — son of the Senate leader — recuse himself from the case, while attorneys for the elder Berger and Moore asked that Associate Justice Anita Earls not participate. This year’s recusal motions were denied, as they were in 2022, and Earls, a registered Democrat, and the younger Berger, a Republican, both were expected to participate Thursday.

Continue Reading

Trending