Eugene City Council: Yes On Bag Ban, No On Coal Trains

Oct 23, 2012

The Eugene City Council approved an ordinance banning single-use plastic bags. The vote Monday night also imposes a 5-cent minimum fee for paper bags at the check-out. KLCC’s Jes Burns reports.

The new law is intended to encourage the use of reusable bags at grocery and other retail establishments in Eugene. Councilors, with a tie breaking vote from Mayor Kitty Piercy, voted down an amendment that would have made the fee on paper bags optional. Councilor Alan Zalenka argued the change would not have created the same outcome.

Zalenka: “Without the 5 cent fee, what we’ll see is a massive shift to paper bags. Just exactly what happened in Portland, when they didn’t put the 5 cent fee on they saw a 491 percent increase in the use of paper bags.”

Certain types of plastic bags are exempt, like produce and meat bags, and those used to transport restaurant take-out. Businesses will have the opportunity to appeal to the city for a one year extension, if they can prove the plastic bag ban will cause undue hardship. The law goes into effect in six months.

The Eugene City Council also voiced opposition to a tentative plan to ship trainloads of coal through the city. The Wyoming coal would be exported to Asia through the Port of Coos Bay.

The non-binding resolution covers many community concerns, such as potential health problem and the decline in property values along rail routes. In addition, it says exporting coal to Asia is inconsistent with Eugene’s own city goals of carbon neutrality.

The resolution passed 5-3, triggering a round of applause from the audience, many of whom had been lobbying the Council for months to fight the coal shipments.

Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio