Two Allegheny Watershed Counties Get Plastic Bag Ban!

No, those counties were not in Pennsylvania. BYOBagNY!

On Earth Day, April 23, 2019, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation to ban the sale of single-use plastic bags. That ban goes into effect on March 1, 2020.

According to New York State Deparment of Environmental Conservation, “New Yorkers use an estimated 23 billion plastic bags annually-each for about 12 minutes-and approximately 85 percent of this staggering total ends up in landfills, recycling machines, waterways, and streets.”

After reviewing 2500 comments generated during a 60-day comment period and public hearing, the final rules for the ban have been drafted and will be published in the State Register on Feb. 26, 2020.

NYSDEC Commissioner, Basil Seggos, says “New York continues to be a national leader on environmental issues, and the plastic bag ban is the latest in a series of actions Governor Cuomo has directed to preserve our air, land, and waters for future generations. DEC is proud to be at the forefront of these efforts and will continue to work to develop solutions to combat climate change and protect the environment and we continue to encourage New Yorkers to BYOBagNY and bring their own reusable bags wherever and whenever they shop.”

DEC says enforcement of the ban will follow in the months ahead, but will be preceded by public education efforts to ensure a smooth transition for consumers and affected retailers.

New York vs. Pennsylvania

In contrast to Governor Cuomo and New York State, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed legislation in June 2019 to block local communities from banning or taxing plastic bags for at least one year.

In addition, Governor Wolf helped engineer a $1.65 billion “incentive package” to attract Royal Dutch Shell’s ethylene cracker plant in Beaver Countythe largest tax break in Pennsylvania history. That cracker plant will produce one million tons of plastic each year, and is permitted to emit 522 tons of cancer-causing Volatile Organic Compounds into the air.

President Donald J. Trump is shown the expansion construction underway as he tours the Shell Pennsylvania Petrochemicals Complex Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019, in Monaca, Pa. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)

The state line between New York and Pennsylvania is increasingly becoming a boundary between a habitable zone and an ecological sacrifice zone.

Indivisible Warren members back the right of local government self-rule

On February 13, twenty-one members of Indivisible Warren PA signed a letter in support of Pennsylvania House Bill 1813, which is a “joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in declaration of rights, providing for right to local self-government.”

According to House Democrat Danielle Friel Otten (District 155, Chester County), who is the prime sponsor of the bill, “our state constitution is too often exploited by special interests and often denies our communities the legal authority they need to protect their own health, safety, natural resources, and economic interest. The Local Self-Government Amendment would place the rights of citizens over the interests of private corporations, empowering communities and their municipal governments to enact local laws without interference from corporations or pre-emption by state or federal government.”

Representative Danielle Otten Introduces PA HB 1813 proposing to amend the PA Constitution to ensure the right to local self-government. Photo by CELDF.

The letter of support from Indivisible Warren states in full:

We the undersigned represent Indivisible Warren PA, an ad-hoc grassroots organization whose mission is to engage in local and regional activism in resistance to the Donald Trump agenda. In pursuit of these objectives, we’ve come to understand that all Pennsylvanians live under a de facto system that sanctions activities which threaten our health, safety, and welfare.

This system has been used to violate our State Constitutional “right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment”. It has sought to deny our citizens the ability to enact local ordinances of vital importance to our communities and their future.

Current Pennsylvania laws and practices have placed the privileges of a corporate minority above community health and safety, while obstructing local representative government in the communities where we live.

Key provisions of the Pennsylvania Constitution have been rendered void and meaningless under these systems and practices, most notably Article I, Section 2, which unequivocally declares that “all power is inherent in the people.”

For these reasons we support PA House Bill 1813, which mandates an Amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution to recognize and encourage the right of community self-government. To secure this right, the Amendment makes provisions empowering our communities to enact local laws against unwanted and harmful activities, and enabling municipalities to make decisions free from preemptive laws and corporate Interference.

For these reasons we support PA House Bill 1813, which mandates an Amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution to recognize and encourage the right of community self-government. To secure this right, the Amendment makes provisions empowering our communities to enact local laws against unwanted and harmful activities, and enabling municipalities to make decisions free from preemptive laws and corporate Interference.