Sides need to find middle ground on environmental issues

A Minot environmental group and a Minot legislator are at odds when it comes to the use of plastic bags, and their effect on the environment.

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.

Meanwhile, 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.

It isn’t exactly a coincidence.

Speaking at a legislative forum in Minot Saturday, 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.”

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

The House Political Subdivisons Committee heard testimony on the bill last week but has not made a recommendation. The Minot Environmental Policy Group sees a benefit to having the discussion surrounding HB 1200.

Discussion is good, productive and hopefully introduces the concept to the rest of the state – folks who have expressed interest.

Let’s have the discussion at the state level!