City Hall

If Dallas Wants to Ban Plastic Bags, It Should Be Prepared to Get Sued by Retailers

The city of Dallas is "maybe a year or two" away from considering a plastic bag ban, assistant city manager Jill Jordan told City Council members on Monday. First there will be a study to figure out its potential impact and exactly how many bags plastic bags there are in the city.

It might also be wise to develop a game plan for dealing with the inevitable lawsuits. Austin, which is set to begin enforcing its plastic bag ban on Friday, was just sued by the Texas Retailers Association, which claims the measure violates state law. In California, Oakland, San Francisco and other cities have faced similar legal challenges, most if not all coming from the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, which has a website dedicated largely to detailing the evils of paper and reusable bags. By STPBC own accounting, those suits have had mixed success.

STPBC's main strategy in the California cases was to have courts force cities to perform extensive, and costly, environmental impact studies it says are required by the California Environmental Quality Act.

In Texas, the argument is different. In its court filing, the Texas Retailers Association argues that law bars municipalities from implementing product bans without the legislature's OK.

"Texas law is clear: a city may not ban bags, unless authorized by the state to do so, which it has not," the suit, as reported by Courthouse News, states. "But this is exactly what Austin did."

Specifically, the retail group points to a portion of Texas' health and safety code stating that local governments "may not adopt an ordinance, rule, or regulation to prohibit or restrict, for solid waste management purposes, the sale or use of a container or package in a manner not authorized by state law." And nowhere is there a measure on the books that gives cities the OK to ban plastic bags, they say.

The city of Austin is undeterred and is moving forward to implement the measure. It remains to be seen what the court determines, which will likely weigh heavily on Dallas' plans moving forward.

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Eric Nicholson
Contact: Eric Nicholson