Because he believes that “we ought to be allowing local officials to make decisions that they, in their estimation, and their constituents feel are in their best interests”, Governor Wolf has exercised his first veto of 2017 to stop a bill that would ban PA cities and towns from banning or taxing plastic bags. (Yes, I had to read it several times myself.)
House Bill 1071, which involves “Prohibiting a Political Subdivision from Imposing a Ban, Fee, Surcharge or Tax on Recyclable Plastic Bags at the Point of Sale”, was passed in a 28-21 vote. It is unlikely that the Senate will be able to override the veto, but it demonstrates how the Pennsylvania legislature once again lags behind while other states are leading the pack on this issue. California, for example, enacted legislation establishing a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags in large retail stores back in 2014. Hawaii has a de facto statewide ban which started in 2011, with all of its most populous counties prohibiting non-biodegradable plastic bags. And major cities across the country, Cambridge MA, Brownsville TX, and Seattle WA to name a few, all have plastic bag bans or a plastic bag fee.
The bill was crafted in response to retail and plastic bag manufacturing lobbies arguing that a ban would add to the cost of doing business and would slash jobs. But plastic bags, apart from adding to the unsightly litter along our roadways, are harmful to wildlife, are costly to clean up, use up finite natural resources, and can take 1,000 years to decompose. Will the special interests of a handful of manufacturers across the state that this bill would have protected matter in 1,000 years?
In issuing his veto Governor Wolf cited the Environmental Rights Amendment of the PA Constitution. He also invoked the clause in the state constitution “protecting citizens' right to clean air, pure water and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and aesthetic values of the environment”.
While environmentalists don’t have this one completely in the bag (a total statewide ban would be the ideal) we can thank Governor Wolf for (mutedly) being on the right side of this issue.
Although Governor Wolf has taken some encouraging positions recently regarding the environment, such as condemning the White House’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement and expressing support for the U.S. Climate Alliance, he is not putting the brakes on expanding the shale gas market in the state. In fact, Wolf’s veto of HB 1071 (see above) seems in some ways to be in direct contradiction to his support of the ethane cracking industry whose plants extract the ethylene used in products such as plastic bags.
Karen Feridun describes Governor Wolf’s energy agenda as “perilous” and explains why in a recent opinion piece in The Morning Call.
Click here to read Karen’s article at Governor Wolf’s energy agenda ‘perilous’
posted by Amy Levengood