The 2016 election results are cause for serious concern about our planet’s future. Our President-elect has pledged to weaken climate change regulations and to ignore President Obama’s commitments under the Paris climate agreement. We can also expect agency appointments and regulatory rollbacks that threaten clean, reliable water supplies, and reverse protection of our parks and special places.
California leaders have already made clear they understand the importance of our state’s role in defending the environment and all that we hold sacred. A November 9, 2016 statement from California Senate President pro tempore Kevin de Leon and California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon reflects this commitment: “California will defend its people and our progress. We are not going to allow one election to reverse generations of progress at the height of our historic diversity, scientific advancement, economic output, and sense of global responsibility.”
California voters also defended a hard-won environmental law to ban single-use plastic bags in grocery stores from massive out-of-state corporate lobbying efforts. Out-of-state plastic bag manufacturers, led by South Carolina-based Novolex, spent more than $6 million to reverse the law, by putting a statewide referendum on the bag ban on the ballot, which temporarily halted the ban, and manufacturing another ballot measure, Proposition 65, meant only to confuse voters on the issue. On Tuesday, a majority of California voters voted yes on Proposition 67 and no on Proposition 65, to uphold the plastic bag ban Governor Brown signed into law in 2014.
We would never have achieved this victory without the leadership of more than 150 communities who adopted plastic bag bans over the past decade, and who have worked tirelessly over the past year to defeat a well-funded effort by the plastics industry. Our local Waterkeepers and Blue Business Council members helped lead efforts locally to champion bag bans, mobilize volunteers and educate voters, and to engage businesses and leaders to endorse the campaign to protect California’s pioneering plastic bag ban in its formative early stages. We are proud to have been part of the massive Yes on 67 coalition of environmental groups, businesses, consumer organizations, organized labor, elected officials and citizens.
Proposition 67 is unquestionably an environmental victory – it will help eliminate the 25 million plastic bags polluting our beaches and waterways. It is also an important ideological victory – it sends a powerful message to the plastic bag industry and to corporate interests across the country that California’s environmental protections are not for sale.
On Tuesday, we helped set California on a course toward less plastic in our environment and communities and less industry influence in our laws. We know that we have much bigger challenges ahead and we will remain vigilant and ready to meet them.