House bill would prevent municipalities from addressing plastic bag problem

HARRISBURG, April 26 – Despite opposition from numerous municipalities and environmental groups, the Pennsylvania House yesterday passed legislation that would prevent local governments from enacting measures to address problems caused by disposable plastic bags, said state Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware/Montgomery.

House Bill 1071 would prohibit Pennsylvania cities, counties, townships and boroughs from imposing a ban, fee, tax or surcharge on the use of disposable plastic bags at retail stores. The bill passed the House by a vote of 102-82.

“This is a bill driven by national plastic bag manufacturer Novolex, who owns the Helix Poly plant in Milesburg, Pa.," Vitali said. "Milesburg is represented by one of the House members sponsoring the bill."

Novolex has been active in promoting this type of legislation in other states, Vitali said.

"Unfortunately good public policy has been trumped by special-interest influence in Harrisburg, once again," Vitali said.

Currently, 165 municipalities across the country have adopted some form of single-use plastic-bag legislation, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and New York City. Following implementation of a citywide bag fee in 2010, the presence of bags in Washington, D.C., decreased by 67 percent.

"Pennsylvania municipalities should have the tools of a plastic-bag fee or ban at their disposal to help deal with such local problems as litter, the clogging of storm drains and sewers, and the stressing of landfills," Vitali said.

The City of Philadelphia, one of the many Pennsylvania municipalities opposing this bill, is considering legislation to regulate single-use plastics. House Bill 1071, if enacted, would prevent Philadelphia from moving forward with this bill.

“Plastic bags also cause significant environmental problems,” Vitali said. “They pollute waterways and cause damage to wildlife that ingest them. House Bill 1071 also is opposed by many environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, Penn Future and Penn Environment.”

House Bill 1071 now moves to the Senate. Gov. Tom Wolf is on record as opposing the bill, but it is uncertain as to whether he will veto the bill, should it reach his desk.