This week, cities around the state spoke out against House Bill 346/Senate Bill 244, which would prohibit local communities from making laws to regulate plastic pollution. The House version of the bill was on the agenda Thursday, but the chamber adjourned before they took it up.
The Mobile City Council led the way last week with a resolution unanimously opposing the bills. Leaders in Montgomery, Orange Beach, Dauphin Island, Fairhope, and Birmingham also spoke out against the bills, letting the legislature know that cities want the right to solve local pollution problems.
These communities are important allies in our fight to protect local control and keep plastic pollution out of our lands and waterways; your voice helped elevate this issue and bring it to their attention. Since House Bill 346/Senate Bill 244 were introduced two weeks ago, 600 emails have been sent to the legislature through our action alert. Our partners helped amplify the message and reach new audiences. That means that legislators heard over and over that Alabamians want the opportunity to make decisions about local pollution for themselves.
Without you, bills like House Bill 346/Senate Bill 244 can skate through the legislature. When you speak up, legislators listen. We’ll keep updating you on these bills’ progress and let you know when you can make the biggest impact.
Last week, bills were introduced in both the House and Senate to prohibit local communities from banning plastic bags. House Bill 346 is sponsored by Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) and Senate Bill 244 is sponsored by Sen. Greg Reed (R-Jasper), Sen. Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills), Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston), Sen. Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville), Sen. Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville), Sen. Tom Butler (R-Madison), Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville), Sen. Tom Whatley (R-Auburn), Sen. Randy Price (R-Opelika), and Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham).
Conservation Alabama strongly opposes these bills. Limiting local control over local pollution issues is a bad idea that will prevent communities from taking action to keep unsightly and dangerous plastic bags from littering their land and water.
On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs quickly passed SB 244 by a vote of 9 to 2. Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Daphne) voted against the bill, saying that his coastal Alabama district wants the right to deal with the plastic pollution they see in waterways. HB 346 was in the House Committee on State Government on Wednesday and was passed by a voice vote.
Here’s a look at why we oppose these bills, and why they are bad for our state, our natural resources, and our local communities:
- Almost 300 of Conservation Alabama’s members have contacted their elected officials in opposition to HB346/SB244;
- The City Council of Mobile has made it clear they want this issue to be decided locally, as they have an inordinate amount of trash in coastal waterways;
- Plastic bags contribute to dangerous and unsightly pollution that negatively impacts our fisheries, farms, and Alabama’s $10.4 billion outdoor recreation industry;
- The average American family takes home almost 1,500 plastic shopping bags a year, and recycles only 1% of those bags;
- Cities spend precious resources cleaning up plastic bags that blow out of landfills and litter the community;
- Chemicals leaching from plastics disrupt fetal and childhood development and increase the risk for certain cancers;
- Up to 80% of ocean plastic pollution enters the ocean from land;
- Fish eat thousands of tons of plastic a year, transferring it up the food chain to bigger fish and marine mammals and impacting fisheries and human health.
Since both versions of this bill were passed by their respective committees, they could be taken up by the full chambers of the legislature as soon as next week.