April 27, 2017

Bill That Includes the Repeal of the Outer Banks’
Plastic Bag Ban Approved by N.C. Senate


A Senate bill focused on environmental deregulation changes, which includes the repeal of a 2009 law that bans the use of plastic shopping bags by Outer Banks retailers, was approved Monday night by the N.C. Senate in a 31-17 vote. The bill now moves on to the House.

The repeal of the plastic bag ban was added to Senate Bill 434 last week, as part of the bill’s array of environmental measures which includes lessening stream protections and deregulating a number of current environmental rules and procedures. The bill would essentially do away with the current law which supporters say protects wildlife - and especially sea turtles - and which keeps the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and other Outer Banks beaches clean.

The 2009 plastic bag repeal ban was the brainchild of then-Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight of Dare County as a way to cut down on litter, as well as the deaths of offshore sea turtles which often pay a visit to the Outer Banks to lay their eggs along the seashore. (When in the water, plastic bags look a lot like jellyfish, and are therefore commonly mistaken as food by sea turtles and other marine life.) The ban requires stores to use paper bags, and also to provide a $.05 refund per bag for customers who bring their own reusable bags to an individual store.

Senate Bill 434 was originally filed on March 29 by Sens. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, Norman Sanderson, R-Onslow, and Andy Wells, R-Catawba.

WRAL-TV reported that during a meeting of the environment committee before the vote was held, both Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, and Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph spoke out against the plastic bag ban.

"The ban is not working. It doesn’t do what it was intended to be done, and it’s an infringement on the freedoms of people in that area," Cook told the committee

The North Carolina Retail Merchants Association supports the repeal, but local organizations including the Dare County Board of Commissioners (BOC) and the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce have both publicly spoken out against repealing the ban.

In an April 3 resolution opposing the repeal of the ban on plastic bags that addressed the similar House Bill 271 and Senate Bill 539, the BOC stated that “banning plastic bags has improved the visual aesthetics on the Outer Banks by reducing litter, adding protection to the fragile marine ecosystems, and keeping tons of plastic out of landfills.”

The senate proposals come on the heels of the N.C. House of Representatives bill that was introduced on March 7 by Dare County Rep. Beverly Boswell. That bill is currently assigned to the House environment committee.

For more information on the current status of SB 434, refer to http://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/BillLookUp/BillLookUp.pl?Session=2017&BillID=s434.

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