In 1969, the National Environmental Policy Act was created so that officials who make decisions affecting environmental changes are fully informed of the environmental aspects and consequences prior to making their final decision. Policies that might impact our environment are things like plastic bag bans, building a dam, building a park, new roads, ect. To retrieve all the information officials need to make informed decisions before an issue goes to vote, an Environmental Assessment was created.
The certified release of an Environmental Assessment results in either a “Finding of No Significant Impact” (FONSI) or an “Environmental Impact Statement”. If an Environmental Impact Statement is deemed to be necessary, the city will need to hire more experts to obtain more detailed findings.
Although EIA’s can be expensive and lengthy, environmental impacts often affect more than just the immediate area that is considering the change. Environmental threats can lead to international pollution and have detrimental effects on the atmosphere, oceans, rivers, aquifers, farmland, the weather and biodiversity. Specific pollution threats such as an oil spill can have affects over large areas between several countries.
A lot of cities throughout the U.S. are passing plastic bag bans without EIA’s being performed due to the expense and length of time it takes to complete one. City officials feel that the negative affects of plastic bag bans on our environment are so obvious that the movement towards using reusable grocery bags makes better environmental sense. Even reusable shopping bags made of plastic are better for the environment because 1 reusable shopping bag can last for years instead of only 1 or 2 uses, thus reducing the need for so much production.
Save The Plastic Bag is suing cities that have not performed EIA’s in order to keep the sale of plastic bags up by major retailers. Judges are having to decide if it is in the better interest of each community to be allowed to pass a plastic bag ban without an EIA or to demand each city complete one before each vote. The dilemma continues but as more cities move forward with plastic bag bans without EIA’s, a national decision could be in the future.