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Save the Plastic Bag Coalition v. City & County of San Francisco

ELR Citation: 43 ELR 20275
Nos. A137056, (Cal. Ct. App. 1st Dist., 12/10/2013)

A California appellate court, in an unpublished opinion, upheld San Francisco's ban on the use of plastic "checkout bags" by retail establishments in the city and county. A group of plastic bag manufacturers and distributors filed suit, arguing that the ban violates the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and is preempted by the California Retail Food Code. But the court rejected both contentions. The group failed to establish that the city erred by concluding that the ban was categorically exempt from CEQA's environmental review requirements. The group failed to prove that the city was precluded from relying on a categorical exemption, particularly in light of the substantial evidence supporting the city's determinations in this case. The group also failed to demonstrate that the unusual circumstances exception to the CEQA categorical exemptions applies to the ban. And the Retail Food Code does not preempt the ban because that Code occupies the field of safety and sanitation standards for retail food facilities, not the field of environmental standards for single use bags.