Texas cities have the wrong idea about what should be banned in the name of environmental protection, according to one state senator.

“Plastic bags are actually the most environmentally friendly option for transporting groceries,” said state Sen. Bob Hall, an Edgewood Republican. Bans on plastic bags, he said, force consumers to use “resource heavy” alternatives, like paper and reusable bags.

That’s the argument that started a meeting of the Texas Senate Committee on Business and Commerce on Tuesday, during which senators heard testimony on Hall’s Senate Bill 103, which would prohibit Texas cities from banning single-use plastic bags.

The hearing is the first on the issue this legislatives session, and comes at a time when more Texas cities are exploring and passing bag bans.

Late last year, Galveston officials began discussing banning single-use plastic bags from retail businesses and produced a draft ordinance reflecting the ban. In November, the city council decided to defer action on the ordinance until after the legislature ended its session.

Proponents of a ban in Galveston say that prohibiting plastic bags would protect wildlife, such as migratory birds and sea turtles that might ingest the bags while on the beach.

Other cities in Texas have passed bag bans by arguing the bags clog local sewer drains or are eaten by cattle. State officials have opposed local bans, particularly ones that charge an extra fee to people who want to use single-use bags.

No local elected or appointed officials testified at Tuesday’s hearing, but two local groups that support the local ordinance were present.

Jeff Seinsheimer, the chairman of the Galveston chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, appeared before the committee wearing a costume made of plastic bags.

Seinsheimer and other environmental advocates disagreed with Hall’s environmental assessment.

“We need to get a handle on our addiction to plastic bags,” Seinsheimer said. “Galveston is such a draw for tourists because we know how to keep our island clean. We will always be faced with ocean debris that washes on our shores as well as debris from the Trinity River watershed. Plastic bags cause us to be bombarded by land-based debris as well.”

Joanie Steinhaus, the director of the Gulf of Mexico Turtle Island Restoration Project, told the committee that the bill failed to address the needs of local communities.

“I see firsthand the impact on sea turtles, shorebirds and marine mammals,” said Steinhaus, who said she patrols 72 miles of shoreline daily. “They become entangled, ingest and their habitat is altered by single-use bags.”

The same hearing included discussion about two other issues related to local control, including transportation network companies, like Uber and Lyft, and short-term rental housing.

Senators have proposed bills on both issues that would prohibit local regulations of such companies. Since 2015, Galveston leaders have approved regulations on the industries, which local officials say could be erased by the Senate’s proposed legislation.

The committee did not vote on the bills on Tuesday. Tuesday’s hearing was for public testimony only.

Contact reporter John Wayne Ferguson at 409-683-5226 or john.ferguson@galvnews.com. Follow him on Twitter, @johnwferguson.

(11) comments

Susan Fennewald

I thought the reason to ban the bags was because they created such a large amount of ugly LITTER. They get blown all over the place. They're especially unsightly when blown into wetlands and caught in the marsh grass - in places where its extremely hard to pick them up. You always see them blown up against fences along the seawall and beach.

Jl Hime

The Senators reasons are based on lobbyists that want plastic bags. He's in it for the money.

Vicki Blythe

How much is the plastic bag industry paying this guy? He sounds like the new head of the EPA who wants to abolish the EPA. Who needs clean air and water? On windy days, I often see plastic bags rolling across Seawall Blvd towards and into the Gulf of Mexico. Kroger and Wal-Mart and other businesses are right on the Seawall, so it is easy for an escaping bag to head right into the Gulf. Once in the water, it can be mistaken for food by creatures in the water, and that can be deadly for them. I have used reusable bags for shopping for years. It is ridiculous to say that using plastic bags is better than using reusable ones!

Don Ciaccio

More likely the business community, since it hurts local businesses.

Diane Turski

Stating that plastic bags are good for the environment is now the stupidest statement I have heard recently!! I support the ban on plastic bags and I support right of local governments to regulate short term rentals based on my past personal experience with both issues!! The source of opposition to both of these issues are their selfish supporters' lobbyists!!

william boney

interesting article, how bout yoga pants and patagonia http://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/yoga-pants-cozy-clothes-may-be-key-source-of-sea-pollution/

George Croix

If we want less visual pollution, we should ban Spandex......
Anyway, what do the plastic bag banners propose as a solution for the type of people who toss them/their trash down rather than dispose of it properly....
Ya figure that will stop if they have some other carrying device.....?

Maybe....

Don Ciaccio

Way to go Galveston. Send an environmentalist wacko to embarrass our city. A plastic bag ban would not only be crippling to the business community, it would place an unnecessary financial burden on the poor and senior citizens. No bag ban. I hope the bill passes

Chuck DiFalco

So, the pinheads in Austin don't want the federal government to tell them what to do, but then turn around to tell us Texas cities what to do? Bunch of hypocrites that don't deserve their seats, they are.

Carlos Ponce

If you don't like plastic bags, don't use them. If you see one drifting on the wind, capture and dispose or recycle. While you're at it, record the store name to see if it might be local. Please report your findings to us.

Carlos Ponce

City of Galveston Eco Center
702 61st Street, Galveston, TX 77550
(409) 741-1446
www.cityofgalveston.org/city_services/recycling_center/default.cfm
OPEN:
Monday - Saturday: 8:00 am - 4:45 pm
ACCEPTS:
Paper, Plastics #1-5 and #7, Glass (Clear, Brown, Green), Aluminum, Scrap Metal, Electronics, Cell Phones, Rechargeable Batteries, Ink Jet Cartridges, Antifreeze, Gasoline, Car Batteries, Tires, Yard Waste
There are two major types of plastic shopping bags. Lightweight, checkout-style bags are most commonly found in supermarkets and takeaway stores, and are made from high density polyethylene or HDPE (#2). The heavier, tougher plastic bags found in boutique and department stores are made from low density polyethylene or LDPE (#4).

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