At today’s DC Council legislative session, twelve of the thirteen members of the DC Council all co-introduced the Anacostia River Cleanup and Protection Act. As we discussed last week, this will impose a 5-cent fee on all free carryout bags, paper or plastic, from food and liquor stores. Stores keep 1 cent, or 2 if they offer (as Giant does) a 5-cent rebate to customers who bring their own bags. The rest goes into a fund to clean up the river and provide free bags to elderly and low-income residents. Here’s the text of the bill.
Tommy Wells’ staff orchestrated an impressive campaign for this bill. They put together a core group of environmental organizations and other strong proponents, reached out to many area businesses including Safeway, Giant and CVS, and met with community organizations, faith groups, business associations, and more. They sat most Councilmembers down to talk about the bill well ahead of time, organized a press kickoff, petition, and phone calls to follow up. And it paid off.
The lone holdout was Councilmember Jim Graham. Graham received such a volume of email, partly thanks to our petition, that he replied to all constituents who wrote in with a statement:
Thanks for giving your views on the bill to require a deposit on plastic bags. I appreciate the sincere leadership of my colleague, CM Tommy Wells, and all the others who have joined him. …
I have a strong environmental record. I have authored the Green Building Act, the Stormwater Management Act, and the Lead Paint Hazard Act. A year or so ago, when I had oversight of the environment, I looked into this issue. I considered the experience with a somewhat different approach in San Francisco…the only other city to advance this.
It left me with various questions which remain. So, for the time being, I will not be joining on this bill. Council consideration will give me the opportunity I need in order to consider these issues.
We can say there’s been a successful legislative rollout when every legislator but one is already on board from the start, and the only legislator who hasn’t made up his mind feels pressure to explain why he’s the lone holdout, not as an opponent, but simply as the only undecided vote.
The bag industry is going to start lobbying hard to try to pressure Councilmembers to change their votes or water down the bill. Stay tuned for more opportunities to help turn this important legislation into law.