SE Texas Record

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Texas, national bag law advocates fight attorney general's suit

By Joe Dyton | Oct 27, 2016


AUSTIN -- Attorney General Ken Paxton has caught resistance from numerous entities in response to his lawsuit against Texas’ first local law against bag pollution in Brownsville.

Bag law advocates on the state and national level recently joined to defend the bag ordinances. Organizations are ready to help as this issue heads to the Texas Supreme Court with the city of Laredo appealing a recent decision to dismiss the city’s bag law.

The organizations that want to keep the bag law intact are doing so for a variety of reasons. Robin Schneider, executive director of Texas Campaign for the Environment, said the bag laws are in the best interest in the safety of livestock and environment.

“For the west Texas city of Fort Stockton, it was the death of livestock that ingest ‘plastic tumbleweed’ and ruin the desert landscape getting caught on cactus and barbed wire, while on the coast it’s concern over sea turtles, plastic in the food chain and beach pollution,” Schneider said.

According to Rob Nixon, chairman of the Surfride Foundation South Texas Chapter, part of Paxton’s reasoning, the cost to shoppers, is incorrect. Plus, the actual bag fee goes toward a good cause—bag cleanup.

“Attorney General Paxton’s claim of ‘buck a bag’ fee is disingenuous and not true,” Nixon said. “If you need a plastic bag at one of only the seven retailers that got exemptions and implemented the fee, it’s $1 for as many bags as you require for the purchase. That fee goes to a fund to clean up the bags that are dispersed from the exemptions.”

The Texas groups are getting help from bag advocates at the national level. Jennie Romer, an attorney and founder of, says the issue goes well beyond Texas’ borders.

“State preemption of local bag laws is an issue that has become much more prevalent nationally the last few years,” Romer said. “What’s unique about preemption disputes in Texas is that they are new fights about old laws; the provision that allegedly preempts local bag laws in Brownsville and Laredo has been on the books since 1993 and Brownsville’s ordinance was adopted in 2009.”

Meanwhile Christopher Chen, executive director of the Center of the Centre Oceanic Awareness Research and Education (COARE), said although it’s easier to shop with single-use plastic bags there’s a big price to pay for that convenience.

“Single-use bags may seem convenient but that is far outweighed by their impact—which is far reaching and ubiquitous,” he said. Every square inch of the planet is affected. Legislation to reduce or eliminate the consumption of single-use bags has proven to be effective.”

Although there are still a number of Texas cities that haven’t enacted ordinances, they are currently exploring them in order to protect their environment.

“The Greater Fort Worth Sierra Club has campaigned for the last three years for a bag ordinance in Fort Worth,” Conservative Chairman John MacFarlane said. “We believe an ordinance to phase out these single-use bags will improve the aesthetic of Forth Worth, help to mitigate storm drain clogging and help save aquatic animals and terrestrial wildlife from a slow toxic death. Attorney General Paxton should spend his time solving problems, not attacking good local policies that are protecting wildlife, livestock, water resources and the environment."

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Texas Office of the Attorney GeneralTexas Supreme Court