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County Puts Hold on Work Toward Possible Local Plastic Bag Law

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County Puts Hold on Work Toward Possible Local Plastic Bag Law

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Because of work in progress toward legislation at the State level, County Administrator Jason Molino has advised that Tompkins County put a pause on drafting a potential local law to ban single-use plastic bags at the county level.  Governor Cuomo’s Executive Budget, released January 15, includes State legislation that would ban single-use plastic bags provided to customers, as of March 1, 2020.

Mr. Molino shared with the Legislature’s Planning, Development, and Environmental Quality Committee limited details about the legislation released by the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC).  Included is a provision that would preempt local governments from passing laws related to the recycling of plastic bags and film plastic, as well as imposing fees or other measures associated with single-use plastic bags.  (The legislation, however, would not preclude local governments from placing a fee on paper carryout bags.)

“While more details regarding this proposal are expected to be released in the upcoming weeks, County staff will be monitoring and following this issue as it is debated during the budget negotiation process,” County Administrator Molino said in a briefing memo to the committee.  “Because the State is currently entertaining a ban on single-use plastic bags, it is recommended that staff stop its development of a local law until the State budget is adopted so as to not duplicate efforts.” 

Before renewing discussion of potential local plastic bag legislation within the past year, the County Legislature earlier had endorsed passage of a statewide ban.  Committee Chair Anna Kelles noted that it will be important for the County to provide input to the State before any legislation is passed, since it appears there will be little opportunity to enact local changes after passage.

Also today, eight residents addressed the committee regarding the issue of County-owned forest lands, all of them advocating a hands-off approach to preserve the lands as old-growth forests.  There was no action on an anticipated award of bid for timber harvest on the forest lands, located in Newfield and Caroline—such timber harvest recommended in the Tompkins County Forest Management Plan as a tool for sustainable management.  Planning staff will review the matter further, and seek input from the Environmental Management Council and others, before returning to the committee within the next two months.