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Steve Lopez: It took an army of lobbyists to kill California's ban on plastic bags

September 2, 2010 |  7:36 am

TalkBackLopez_187x105I'd been in contact with Heal the Bay's Mark Gold before, during and after the vote on the proposed plastic-bag ban, which on Tuesday night sank to the bottom of the swamp in Sacramento.

So what now?

I'll get to that in a minute. Gold, after months of lobbying, was devastated by the 21-14 defeat in the California Senate. The statewide ban at supermarkets and convenience stores would have been the first in the nation and was supported by the governor and key legislators as well as grocers and environmentalists.

It would have made neighborhoods cleaner and waterways safer for wildlife, but Sacramento is often where good ideas go to die. "The failure reflects more on the competency of the Legislature than it does on the policy itself," Gold said in an e-mail the morning after.

The American Chemistry Council spent millions opposing the bill, which the bag-making industry called a job killer and a hardship for shoppers, who would have had to bring their own totes or pay for recyclable bags.

Critics also said the bill would cost $4 million to implement, while environmentalists argued the state spent far, far more disposing of millions of discarded bags.

Gold was particularly ticked off by one of the hired guns who helped kill the bill -- former Assembly Speaker Fabián Núñez, who passed himself off as an environmentalist while in office, is now a lobbyist for the Chemistry Council.

"Because he is no friend of urban rivers or marine life, can he return all of the environmental awards he received for that effort?" Gold asked on his blog, Spouting Off.

So what's the next step for Heal the Bay, now that a state with an international reputation for environmental leadership has rejected a simple, straighforward effort to clean California? Keep fighting, said Gold, whose blog was titled "We Will Win the War." "

"Already, L.A. County, Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Manhattan Beach are planning to move forward with bans," he said, and Heal the Bay will back those efforts.

Would you support bans in those cities and others? Let us know.

-- Steve Lopez

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