Paper or Plastic? Common Sense Prevails in High Court’s CEQA Decision

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In a closely watched decision, the California Supreme Court upheld Manhattan Beach’s ordinance banning the use of plastic bags. The decision is significant because it changes the standing requirements for corporations bringing California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) lawsuits and applies a refreshing common sense approach to analyzing the environmental impacts of the City’s ban.

In terms of standing, the Supreme Court held that (1) corporations – both forprofit and nonprofit – are not subject to heightened standing requirements when filing CEQA challenges; and (2) corporations can achieve “beneficial interest” standing even when the claimed adverse impact on the corporation relates to its business interests, not environmental concerns. In terms of environmental impacts, the Court held that the City of Manhattan Beach was not required to prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) before approving a citywide ban on plastic bags because the environmental impacts of that ban were plainly insignificant.

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