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Judge rules DEC badly bungled plastic bag, so state must pay plaintiffs' court costs

Jan 21, 2021 5:45 am

Rick Karlin is reporting for the Times Union New York’s rollout of its plastic bag ban last year was so disorganized and confusing that a judge has now awarded court fees to bagmaker PolyPak Industries as well as a consortium of corner shops, small business owners and a grocery store that sued over the prohibition. Acting state Supreme Court Justice Gerard Connolly ordered the state to pay despite ruling the ban itself was legal. Saying that the Department of Environmental Conservation’s early directions on the ban were “incorrect” and “frivolous,” Connolly ordered the agency to pay part of the legal fees and court costs for the plaintiffs. The lawsuit was filed last year in Albany County, requesting the ban be overturned. Court papers showed the information provided by DEC sowed confusion over which types of reusable plastic bags were barred. Connolly in his decision made it clear the ban pertained to all plastic non-cloth bags. “Reusable bags may not be distributed if they contain plastic of any kind, barring some further action by the Legislature,” Connolly wrote in his decision. “This is quite significant that the judge is requiring DEC to pay attorneys’ fees,” said Judith Enck, a former regional EPA administrator and founder of Beyond Plastics. “It is because DEC did not put out accurate information,” she said. “The law bans plastic bags. Full stop.” Enck said she hoped lawmakers will turn down any exemption request as the budget is finalized later this year. Read the full story in the Times Union.