The Texas Supreme Court on Thursday will hear oral arguments on a Laredo ban on single-use plastic bags. The outcome of the case could determine the status of a similar proposed rule in Galveston, city officials have said.
The state court in Austin could validate a lower-court ruling against the so-called “bag ban” in Laredo. The Laredo Merchants Association in 2015 filed a lawsuit against the city before the ban on store-provided plastic bags went into effect, the Laredo Morning Times reported. A district judge upheld the ordinance, but it was appealed to an appellate court, which shot it down.
The state Supreme Court’s decision could have far-reaching implications for Texas cities that already have similar bag bans, as well as other cities such as Galveston that are considering enacting their own.
The city of Galveston has submitted a “friend-of-the-court” brief in support of Laredo. The city looked at its own bag ban in November 2016, but discussion stalled when city council cited uncertainties in state law. The council decided at the time that it would wait for an outcome of a bill in the state Legislature, which would have prohibited Texas cities from implementing plastic bag bans. That bill didn’t pass in the Legislature, but litigation against Laredo’s plastic bag ban has now further stalled efforts to implement a Galveston ordinance, city officials have said.
The city’s proposed ordinance, which was drafted in consultation with local environmental groups, would have forbidden retail stores from using plastic bags for most purposes and would have authorized fines against businesses that didn’t comply. Galveston’s ordinance, which would have had a six-month period before it went into effect, had a heavy focus on protecting wildlife, including birds and turtles.
Several people, including a cotton gin industry representative, environmentalists and a former state representative, will speak to media before the oral arguments, said Joanie Steinhaus, Gulf of Mexico program director for Turtle Island Restoration Network.