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Capital Report


October 2014 Issue

California is First State to Ban Plastic Shopping Bags
The California state legislature has passed a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags, making California the first state to outlaw single-use plastic bags.

The bill (SB270), which cleared the Senate on a 22-15 vote, will now go to Governor Jerry Brown for a final sign- off.

“This is a great day for California and our oceans,” said Angela Howe, legal director of the Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the oceans, waves and beaches. “Surfrider activists have been working tirelessly toward a statewide bag ban in California for the last six years, and our efforts have finally paid off with this action by the state legislature.”

The bill bans grocery stores and pharmacies from offering customers single-use plastic bags beginning July 1, 2015. And, by the following July, the law will apply to convenience stores and liquor stores. It will impose a minimum 10-cent fee on any paper or reusable plastic bags sold to customers, and it will set strict standards for what types of bags count as reusable.

While single-use plastic bags were banned throughout Hawaii as of January 2014, the de facto statewide ban isn’t a state law. It was a result of county-by-county decisions. California is the first state legislature in the U.S. that passed a ban.

Most conventional plastic bags are manufactured from oil or natural gas, and 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are used yearly worldwide. Nearly 20 billion are used annually in California, and most end up in landfills or as litter. A huge problem with plastics is that they can take decades or centuries to degrade.

Judge Rules “Gross Negiligence” By BP for 2010 Macondo Incident
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier has ruled that BP (London, England) acted with “gross negligence” in the lead up to the 2010 Macondo incident in the Gulf of Mexico, NOIA reported. BP immediately responded that it disagreed with the ruling and would appeal.

The finding of gross negligence means that BP could face much stiffer civil penalties under the Clean Water Act (CWA), as much as $4,300 per barrel of oil spilled, for a total of up to $18 billion in CWA civil penalties alone.

Barbier said that BP was 67 percent responsible for the spill, Transocean (Zug, Switzerland) was 30 percent responsible and Halliburton (Houston, Texas) was 3 percent responsible.

The ruling could also expose BP to potentially higher punitive damages to individuals and businesses that did not sign onto the $9.2 billion settlement that the company entered into with most plaintiffs in 2012.

The Macondo case has proceeded in three phases. This ruling deals with the first phase of the trial, which was conducted in early 2013, and which deals only with negligence. The second phase, which concluded October 2013 and which Barbier has yet to rule on, deals with the amount of oil released into the environment during the incident. The third and final stage will determine the amount of CWA fines the responsible parties must pay, and that last phase is scheduled to begin in January.

Ocean Champions Endorses Four Washington Reps
Ocean Champions, which works to build political power for the oceans by helping to elect or re-elect pro-ocean candidates to the U.S. Congress, has endorsed four representatives from Washington State.

Reps. Suzan DelBene (Wash.-1), Denny Heck (Wash.- 10), and Derek Kilmer (Wash.-6) are running for their second full term, and Rep. Jamie Herrera Buetler (Wash.-3) is running for her third.

Rep. Buetler sponsored legislation with Rep. Kilmer that would authorize federal funding to help develop methods of combating ocean acidification, and stood up in opposition to an amendment offered by Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) that Ocean Champions believes would have gutted sustainable fisheries policy.

Rep. DelBene has parlayed her environmental work into key seats on the House Agriculture and Judiciary Committees. She has introduced and co-sponsored numerous bills to increase protections for some of her state’s most precious places, and she brings private sector experience to bear on climate change.

Rep. Heck has supported ocean health, focusing on issues such as marine debris, wilderness protection, and clean air and water. He is promoting a transition to clean energy and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Rep. Kilmer has used his seat on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology to advance legislation on ocean acidification, protection of Washington’s scenic and wild rivers, and joined in supporting Ocean Champions’ top priority in the 113th Congress: reauthorization of legislation to combat harmful algal blooms and hypoxia, which was signed into law earlier this summer.

Dan Sullivan to Face Mark Begich in November Race
Alaska’s former Attorney General and Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan prevailed over two Republican opponents in the U.S. Senate Republican primary and will face incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Begich on the ballot in November, NOIA reported.

Sullivan will face Begich in the general election on November 4, and the election is expected to focus heavily on energy issues. The race in Alaska is considered one of the top pick-up opportunities in the Senate for Republicans and should be a very close race.

In other Alaska news, a ballot initiative proposing to repeal the state’s 2013 law that lowered overall taxes on oil and gas companies producing in Alaska was put to a vote. The proposal, which would have repealed the current 35 percent flat tax on crude extracted from the North Slope and replaced it with the previous progressive tax system, did not pass.

In a victory for the oil and gas industry, the upholding of the 2013 law is expected to attract new private investment and generate significant future revenue and jobs for Alaska. The repeal measure was defeated in a 52-48 vote.


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