Austin announced that it will not enforce its five-year-old ban on plastic grocery bags after the Texas Supreme Court ruled the bans were illegal in 12 Texas cities.
“Following the recent ruling from the Texas Supreme Court, the city will not enforce our current rules,” a city spokesperson told a reporter for public radio KUT in an emailed statement. “While it’s disappointing that the City is losing a tool to help protect the environment, we are also confident that the Austin community will continue to do their best to minimize plastic bag waste.”
The announcement came just days after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sent letters to the mayors and city councils in each of the cities informing them of the Supreme Court ruling that the bag ban in Laredo was illegal, as reported by The Texas Monitor on June 22.
The court upheld an August 2016 Fourth Court of Appeals ruling on the Laredo ban that essentially invalidates all bag bans. Chief Justice Nathan Hecht ruled the Laredo bag ban violated the Texas Solid Waste Disposal Act.
“The Texas Constitution states that city ordinances cannot conflict with state law,” Hecht wrote. “The Texas Solid Waste Disposal Act (“the Act”) provides that “[a] local government … may not adopt an ordinance … to … prohibit or restrict, for solid waste management purposes, the sale or use of a container or package in a manner not authorized by state law.”
“The Texas Supreme Court recognized that state law forbids cities from imposing their waste management duties and costs on citizens and retailers,” Paxton said in a statement posted July 2 on the Attorney General website. “Municipalities ignoring this law are unlawfully passing their duty to manage solid waste on to their residents and retailers in violation of settled Texas law. A dislike of state law is no justification for a municipality to violate it.”
In addition to Austin, Paxton sent letters to Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Eagle Pass, Fort Stockton, Freer, Kermit, Laguna Vista, Port Aransas, South Padre Island and Sunset Valley.
In a thread that followed a tweet from the KUT reporter, Austin’s largest grocery chain, HEB tweeted, “As with any policy change to our business, we will thoughtfully evaluate the issue to ensure we’re making the best decisions for our customers and the communities we serve. There will be no immediate changes as we learn more about the ruling.”
Mark Lisheron can be reached at [email protected].