PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A South Dakota bill aimed at stopping local governments from creating plastic straws, plastic bags and other “auxiliary containers” ban has moved forward in Pierre. The bill passed the full Senate in late January, and on Wednesday moved forward in a House committee.
The bill now moves to the House floor, before potentially ending up on Gov. Kristi Noem’s (R-SD) desk. This is similar legislation to neighboring states like North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa.
A majority of states have enacted “preemption” laws, while some of the more populated states like New York and California have passed some sort of plastic bans.
In Wednesday’s House Commerce and Energy Committee, lawmakers heard from several for an against the legislation.
Sen. John Wiik (R-Big Stone City) is the lead sponsor of the bill. He said his goal is to create fairness for businesses in the state.
He argued a ban at a local level would stifle innovation in plastics and hurt businesses attempting to use economies of scale. For instance, a gas station with a location in Sioux Falls, Tea and Harrisburg. If Sioux Falls were to pass a plastic bag ban, the owner of that store would need to purchase a different type of bag for that location.
Wiik also said South Dakota State University and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology could be looking into corn- or soy-based polymer.
“It’s okay for standards to be state-wide,” Wiik said. “This is a common-sense business-friendly (bill) for South Dakota.”
The South Dakota Retailer’s Association also is for the bill, citing similar concerns. A lobbyist for the group argued they encourage local businesses to change bags if they would like to.
“We’re South Dakota. This isn’t a place where we want patchwork regulation,” Bill Van Camp testified.
He also argued plastic bag contamination isn’t a South Dakota issue, but rather an issue across the globe in Africa and Asia.
“We need to keep in mind that a lot of what we’re trying to address here isn’t relevant to the State of South Dakota,” Van Camp said.
However, South Dakota’s rivers do feed, eventually, into the Gulf of Mexico.
A four-year study by the group Adventure Sciences, used volunteers to collect water samples to look for microplastics.
On several spots along the Missouri River, the group reported microplastics.
That’s why Paul Lepisto with Izaak Walton League, a national conservation non-profit, it against the bill.
He has participated in river clean-ups over the past few decades on the Missouri and Big Sioux, and said in his experience there were “literally tons of debris and litter,” with most of it being plastic.
He also pointed to South Dakota’s Plastic Recycling rate being so low, when it comes to plastic. According to the 2011 State of South Dakota Recycling/Diversion Report, the latest data released from the state, only 2.4 percent of plastic was diverted from landfills into recycling.
In addition, Millenium Recycling – the region’s leading recycling provider – is no longer accepting plastic bags because of market conditions and problems it causes to the machines.
Drew Duncan is a Sioux Falls attorney and lobbyist for the American Progressive Bag Alliance. He testified in support of the legislation.
“I would suggest to everybody, that these local bans create a patchwork of regulation, that creates chaos for members of our organizations,” Duncan said.
Duncan pointed to South Carolina, where bans are created in different cities across the state, creating confusion.
He said there could be an impact to the 2,000 manufacturing employees, which amount to $1.6 billion in economic impact if the bill doesn’t pass.
Against the legislation was also the South Dakota Municipal League. Executive director Yvonne Taylor said only two communities in the state have even looked at the possibility of banning plastic, and never moved forward.
“Local control is working and we would urge you to leave it alone,” she said.
Lawmakers didn’t agree and a majority voted to move it out of committee.
One lawmaker, Rep. Larry Zikmund (R-Sioux Falls) is a co-sponsor of the bill, but was on the fence until the very end.
He pointed to the Big Sioux River and Falls Park. Zikmund said it’s a responsibility to keep water in South Dakota clean.
“Folks we need to keep doing things for our waters, without those we’re not going to be alive,” Zikmund said.
Rep. Kelly Sullivan (D-Sioux Falls) proposed two amendments that would narrow the focus of the legislation, but both failed.
Rep. Rhonda Milstead (R-Hartford) asked several questions of the bill’s sponsor and ended up voting for it, however, said that doesn’t mean she’s against the environment.
“We are all in favor of a better environment,” Milstead said.