Editorial Boards Oppose Albany Effort to Preempt NYC's Plastic Bag Law
The editorial boards of the New York Daily News, New York Times, Albany Times Union, Crain's New York Business, Newsday, and AM New York all support NYC's "Bring Your Own Bag" Law, and oppose efforts by the New York State Legislature to overturn and pre-empt it:
"All who bigfoot the City Council will be saddled with the shame of subverting a duly elected government body — and the untimely liability, as the new Congress weighs blocking state legislatures on matters such as gun control, of having no high ground to stand on. Council members approved the measure last year by a healthy majority and even agreed to delay the nickel charge until Feb. 15. In further goodwill and good sense, the Council also required the Department of Sanitation to study the fee’s effects, allowing for future adjustments or even the fee’s abolition based on the facts. Pfft, who needs facts when proud ignorance backed up by bully tactics can do the trick."
"[T]wo basic purposes of government are to protect individuals from the harmful actions of others and to help society at large. Bag fees do that. Other cities have cut plastic-bag use by 60% or more, reducing litter and keeping the planet that much greener for future generations. New York City, meanwhile, is spending $12 million each year to dump 10 billion plastic bags in landfills. Many more bags get stuck in trees, storm drains, sewage-treatment plants and recycling machinery ... Politicians opposing the bag fee have come up with a slew of flimsy rationales ... Their rhetoric sets new standards for lameness. Surely Albany has better things to do than micromanage localities that adopt reasonable measures to protect the environment and change residents' habits for the better."
"It’s a smart idea that should change behavior. City residents use a staggering 9 billion disposable bags a year and don’t recycle most. The bags foul storm drains, waterways, trees and beaches. They harm birds and fish. The fee might be enough to make a difference. Other cities have tried similar laws and seen an impact. A survey of residents in Washington, D.C., for instance, showed that plastic bag use dropped by 60 percent after a nickel fee was adopted. And fewer bags were found in the waterways there ... If New York City’s law works, the benefits could be measured in far more than nickels. We’d be saving the environment, one bag at a time."
"Imagine a New York State Legislature that respects home rule and leads by making good policy. That’s not what happened this week, when the Assembly and Senate decided to stop NYC’s effort to charge five cents for plastic bags at retail stores. Instead of promoting good environmental policy, lawmakers crushed the plan with vague claims of constituent objections, while offering no alternate plan. In particular, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s knee-jerk decision to stop the bag fee was based on unproven concerns that minority and low-income communities would be negatively impacted. Perhaps he should consider that those communities also care about the environment, and would change their behavior as the fee is instituted.
State lawmakers are wrong to wade into this issue and delay the fee until at least 2018. Gov. Andrew Cuomo should veto the legislation and work instead to ban the bags altogether. The city’s efforts to stop plastic bag waste are laudable — residents use as many as 9 billion disposable bags a year. Most end up in storm drains, waterways or on beaches. They harm birds and fish. They have no upside. And, bag usage dropped in cities where fees were adopted.
NYC’s plan exempts people on food stamps, and spares bags for takeout, and for wrapping medicine, meat and vegetables. And NYC has handed out reusable bags for free.
City residents’ objections are understandable, but other cities like Washington, D.C., overcame similar resistance. Public education efforts are important. Perhaps state lawmakers should use some of the dollars in their campaign accounts for reusable bags with their names in big letters and hand them out in their districts. Experience shows that residents deal with a bag fee by changing their behavior. And that’s what this is about. By vetoing the bill, Cuomo would allow the fee to take effect on Feb. 15. Then, state and city officials should study the impact, and remedy unintended problems. Stores can remind customers and make reusable bags available, since they keep the fee.
Residents have every opportunity to do the right thing, and never pay a nickel. Day by day, it’ll make a difference."