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Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot

Bill challenges work of Minot environmental group over plastic bags

MINOT, N.D. - A Minot environmental group that hopes to discourage the use of plastic bags says it is disappointed in a Minot legislator's bill that would prevent cities from regulating the bags and other auxiliary containers.

Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, introduced HB 1200, which prohibits political subdivisions from restricting or charging a fee for use of a bag, cup, bottle, straw or other reusable or single-use packaging designated for transporting, consuming or protecting merchandise, food or beverages acquired at a food service or retail facility.

The Minot Environmental Policy Group presented recommendations to the Minot City Council in November that included an ordinance proposal that would impose a 5-cent fee to be collected by stores from customers on the use of single-use plastic bags. The council postponed action until it holds a future discussion about recycling.

The group responded it is both appreciative of the awareness that HB 1200 is bringing to the issue and worried about the direction it sets.

"As individuals, parents, spouses, students, business professionals, church members, and civically engaged citizens, we are disappointed by the introduction of HB 1200 and its implied loss of local decision-making power. Our intent was not to start a statewide conversation, but rather to engage in local conversations to encourage change that we believe makes our community better," the group said in a prepared statement. "This bill signals that engaged citizens and our locally elected leaders could not possibly make the correct decision for the people living here and instead sets a strong precedent that local policies should be dictated from the state level in Bismarck. We do not believe that legislators from Fargo, Bismarck, Grand Forks, or Dickinson should be determining what is best for the people of Minot."

Speaking at a legislative forum in Minot Saturday, Feb. 2, Ruby said the goal of the bill is to avoid the need for businesses to adhere to rules that vary from place to place.

"I don't think that we need a patchwork of regulations around the state, he said. "It should be consistent across the state."

He also voiced concern about fees that would be passed on to consumers.

Ruby presented statistics showing plastic bags contribute less than 1 percent of the waste stream. He also denied his garbage business has anything at stake with the bill since plastic bags are such a small part of the waste.

The House Political Subdivisions Committee heard testimony on the bill last week but has not made a recommendation.